An ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar has described homosexuality as “a damage in the mind” in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.
The comments come merely two weeks before the World Cup kicks off in the Gulf state and raises further concerns over human rights and LGBTQ+ treatment in the country.
Former Qatari international Khalid Salman told a German reporter: [Homosexuality] is haram. You know what haram [forbidden] means?
“During the World Cup, many things will come here to the country. Let’s talk about gays: the most important thing is everybody will accept that they come here – but they will have to accept our rules.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar under Islamic Sharia law.
Excerpts of the television interview were shown on Monday, while the full interview, which is part of a documentary, will be shown this Tuesday on ZDF.
Sky Sports News has contacted FIFA for comment.
Germany interior minister Nancy Faeser condemned Salman’s remarks on Tuesday: “Of course, such comments are terrible, and that is the reason why we are working on things in Qatar to hopefully improve.”
About 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar for the tournament, which has faced criticism and scepticism ever since the gas-rich state was selected as host by FIFA in December 2010.
The interview was cut short by a media officer from the World Cup organising committee after Salman expressed his views on homosexuals, ZDF reported.
Faeser, who is also responsible for sports, said the country’s prime minister had given her a safety guarantee for fans, no matter where they came from, whom they love and what they believe in, when she visited Qatar a week ago.
Faeser claims there has been no change to that stance from the prime minister, who is also Qatar’s interior minister, and plans to attend Germany’s opening World Cup match against Japan in person.
Last month, Germany’s ambassador to the Gulf state was summoned by the Qatar government after Faeser appeared to criticise the country for its human rights record.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Ned Price called the remarks by the Qatari official a great concern: “We have a relationship with Qatar that allows us to discuss our areas of mutual interest, but it also allows us to discuss what is important with the United States and values of tolerance, diversity, of respecting all people regardless of who they are or whom they love. I suspect we’ll be addressing that directly.”
Sepp Blatter has admitted the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar when he was FIFA president was a “mistake”.
The build-up to this year’s World Cup has been dogged by concerns about the suffering of low-paid migrant workers to build the infrastructure in the tiny Gulf nation and discriminatory laws that criminalise same-sex relations.
Blatter, 86, was the boss of FIFA in 2010 when its executive committee controversially voted for the World Cup to be held in Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 respectively. Blatter claims he did not vote for Qatar and instead wanted a “gesture of peace” by hosting the two tournaments in Russia and then the USA.
“The choice of Qatar was a mistake,” Blatter said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, his first since being cleared of fraud charges in July following a £1.7m payment to the former UEFA president Michel Platini.
“At the time, we actually agreed in the executive committee that Russia should get the 2018 World Cup and the USA that of 2022. It would have been a gesture of peace if the two long-standing political opponents had hosted the World Cup one after the other.
“It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”
The Qatar World Cup, which had to be moved to November and December due to heat, is now just two weeks away and Blatter accepts he is responsible for the tournament taking place there.
“I can only repeat: the award to Qatar was a mistake, and I was responsible for that as president at the time,” he said.