England's challenge to Qatar intolerance - Southgate's squad fly to World Cup in Gay Pride plane

15 November 2022, 10:51 | Updated: 15 November 2022, 11:46

England manager Gareth Southgate boards the squad's plane on Tuesday
England manager Gareth Southgate boards the squad's plane on Tuesday. Picture: Virgin Atlantic/FA

By Kit Heren

The England football squad are flying out to the World Cup on a plane celebrating LGBT rights, in a gesture aimed at challenging the homophobic Qatari regime.

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The Virgin Atlantic plane, called the Rain Bow, is branded with a cartoon figure in rainbow trainers and bears the registration number 'GV -PRD', standing for Gay Pride.

The Football Association did not commission the plane but FA bosses are happy with the gesture.

The England squad before leaving to the World Cup
The England squad before leaving to the World Cup. Picture: Getty

Being gay in Qatar, where the World Cup is starting later this week, is illegal. People convicted of homosexual acts face sentences of up to three years, and even the death sentence.

The flight is not the only pro-LGBT gesture associated with the England squad at the World Cup. The players and manager Gareth Southgate will wear rainbow armbands saying 'One Love'.

Players also took photos in front of rainbow-coloured Nike 'swoosh' logos before leaving for the tournament.

Germany's 'Diversity Wins' plane
Germany's 'Diversity Wins' plane. Picture: Getty

Southgate has said it is very unlikely the England team will follow FIFA's orders to just focus on the football.

He said: We’re very strong on inclusivity. We understand the challenges that this tournament brings . . . the human rights challenges."

Other nations have unveiled similar gestures as they make the trip to Qatar.

Caller who used to live in Qatar tells LBC she 'couldn't stand it'

Germany's jet has a 'diversity wins' message branded on the side, while the US side have a rainbow logo at their training ground.

It comes after Qatar’s World Cup ambassador told journalists that homosexuality was a "damage in the mind" and gay visitors will have to "accept our rules" before being abruptly cut off.

This caller isn't going to watch a single Qatar World Cup game

Khalid Salman, a Qatari former footballer, told German broadcaster ZDF: "They have to accept our rules here. [Homosexuality] is haram. You know what haram [forbidden] means?"

Asked why it is forbidden, Mr Salman said: "I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind."

The interview was then cut off by an official.

Read more: Homosexuality is 'damage in the mind' and gay visitors 'have to accept our rules', Qatar's World Cup ambassador says

Read more: Dua Lipa and Rod Stewart among stars to snub Qatar as pressure grows on Beckham over World Cup

The awarding of the tournament has been controversial since it was announced about a decade ago.

It has been heavily criticised for its record on migrant labour, with reports linking more than 30 deaths to the construction campaign for the World Cup.