Homophobia scandal before World Cup: Salman feels misunderstood, FIFA is silent

Khalid Salman's homophobic statements go around the world and cause anger and incomprehension.

Homophobia scandal before World Cup: Salman feels misunderstood, FIFA is silent

Khalid Salman's homophobic statements go around the world and cause anger and incomprehension. The ex-national player had described being gay as "mental damage". Now the 60-year-old reports on Twitter and tries to clarify things.

Qatari World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman, who described homosexuality as "mental damage" in a ZDF documentary, now feels misunderstood. The former national player wrote on Twitter that he regretted that his statements were "taken out of context". "It is neither our religion nor our nature to offend or hurt," said the 60-year-old, adding: "Everyone is welcome in Qatar, but our religion and culture will not change as a result of the World Cup." Salman is one of ten "local" World Cup ambassadors.

Salman said in an interview in front of the cameras in the documentary "Geheimsache Qatar", which was broadcast on Tuesday, that homosexuality is "haram" - forbidden in Islam. The interview was then cut short by an official of the organizing committee. Salman's statement made waves internationally among politicians, human rights organizations and LGBTQ organizations. German national players also had their say. Among others, the very opinionated Leon Goretzka. For the 27-year-old, homophobia in the World Cup host country is "very oppressive. It's an image of humanity from another millennium".

"To make such a statement is absolutely unacceptable," said Goretzka. The anti-gay attitude in the emirate is "not what we stand for and what we exemplify". Bayern's sports director Hasan Salihamidzic also condemned Salman's publicly expressed homophobia as "simply unacceptable". The Foreign Office, spokeswoman Andrea Sasse, condemned the derogatory statements. "From our point of view, it is an incredibly homophobic failure," she said at the federal press conference. "That also contradicts what our contacts in the Qatari government have promised us." The World Cup organizing committee and the world association FIFA have not yet commented on the statements. FIFA recently caused outrage when boss Gianni Infantino asked the participants in a letter to concentrate on sports.

Qatar has been insisting for months that LGBTQ people are "welcome" to the finals, provided they respect the local culture. The human rights organization Human Rights Watch has accused the rich Gulf state of detaining and abusing LGBTQ people in the run-up to the World Cup, which the government in Doha has vehemently denied. The captains of several European national teams, including Germany, France and England, have announced that they will wear rainbow-colored armbands with the message 'One Love' throughout the tournament.

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