Given Qatar's harsh stance against homosexuality, the LGBTI+ community has regarded the World Cup as fertile ground for its vindication. On Monday, at halftime of the game that Uruguay lost 2-0 to Portugal, Italian player Mario Ferri jumped onto the pitch waving a rainbow flag and needed to be escorted out by stadium security.
Ferri, who defines himself as a footballer and a modern pirate also spread messages in support of Ukraine in the war against Russia and of the women in Iran. He had already tried similar intrusions in other competitions.
The 35-year-old Ferri made Qatari authorities uncomfortable with his protest. After knocking down a security agent who tried to stop him, he walked around the pitch with a flag of the LGBTI+ community wearing a blue T-shirt with the Superman symbol and two slogans: respect for Iranian women and save Ukraine.
Ferri had done it before. During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he also jumped onto the pitch in the round-of-16 clash between Belgium and the United States, wearing a similar T-shirt, albeit with the caption save the children of the Favela. He was then given three days to leave the country for disorderly conduct.
Ferri is in fact a professional footballer. His last club was San Marino's Tre Fiori with which he has taken part in European competitions.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Ferri player was playing for Indian Second Division United Sports Club in Kolkata. The tournament had been put on hold due to COVID-19. He dropped everything to dedicate himself to helping refugees travel to Poland, even using his own money for the quest.
He was also reported to have spent 10 straight nights in his car without taking a shower helping refugees across the border.
FIFA had banned players at Qatar from wearing the rainbow armband in support of the LGBTI+ community.
In another controversy during the World Cup involving the homosexual community, a Bolivian reporter was arrested by Qatari police who mistook the colors of the network he works for and believed the man was advocating for homosexual rights.
Roberto Acosta, who covers the World Cup for Red Bolivisión, was detained Sunday by three Qatari officers at the gate of the Doha press center after the 1-1 draw between Spain and Germany. They are not very prepared to handle situations that are out of the ordinary, Acosta explained. I was just approached by the Qatari police, they thought the Red Bolivision logo was an LGBT symbol, he added.
Qatar's penal code prohibits homosexuality and defines it as sodomy with a penalty from one to three years in jail for those performing such acts and even those who instigate or entice a man to commit sodomy.
Members of the LGBT+ community are welcome at Qatar for the World Cup so long as there is no public display of affection.
Roberto Acosta was a victim of this suspicion and suspicion of any expression of protest. Infobae met him in the press room of the Lusail Iconic Stadium, the venue of the match between Portugal and Uruguay, corresponding to the second matchday of Group H. The Bolivian journalist said that the incident took place while he was returning to the main press center after covering the 1-1 draw between Spain and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium. It happened after going through the controls that all journalists with suitcases and metals went through. Once I was already grabbing my things to get into the press center, a policeman stopped me and pointed to my T-shirt with the logo. That's when I realized there was something wrong. Obviously, I knew what the reason was. Two more policemen joined me.
They asked me to get into a corner. I got a little nervous. I got upset. They didn't want to understand. They spoke only in Arabic. They started arguing: there was no agreement that it was really a protest or the channel's logo. They started arguing. I was trying to explain. They didn't understand me. They didn't speak English or didn't want to speak English. It was about two minutes, three minutes of tension. I was trying to get out of the situation. I was upset and uncomfortable and they were very nervous. They are not very prepared to handle situations that are out of the ordinary, Acosta told his fellow reporters.
The situation subsided when a fourth officer stepped in and asked Acosta if it was a logo or if it was a protest. I told him it was a logo; then I showed him the bucket and the vest: it had several things with the channel's logo on it.
'Okay, sorry, the officer said and he let me through while the others in the background were debating whether or not it was right. It was a very uncomfortable situation, Acosta also stressed, although he admitted there was no violence involved.