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

8 November 2022, 12:15 | Updated: 8 November 2022, 14:42

Mr Salman made his statement to German TV before being cut off
Mr Salman made his statement to German TV before being cut off. Picture: Screengrab/Getty

By Will Taylor

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

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His incendiary comments come as Fifa and politicians try to massage the Arab country’s image and hardline social laws.

One of the biggest problems with the kingdom being awarded the massive tournament is their intolerance of homosexuality.

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.

But his comments will not help the Gulf state's efforts to clean up its image amid a tourism push and a bid to ensure fans are not put off from visiting.

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.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly caused controversy when he told LBC that gay fans should subdue their behaviour.

"I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be safe and secure," he said.

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Among critics of his comments was former England star and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, who asked: "Whatever you do, don't do anything Gay. Is that the message?"

It has also emerged that 40 England fans are being paid by Qatar to attend the World Cup, with instructions to deliver positive PR about the tournament, sing certain songs when requested and report critical social media posts.

They will receive free flights and apartment accommodation, £60 a day in spending money loaded on to a Visa card and complimentary tickets after signing a "code of conduct", it was reported.

Another 40 supporters from Wales have also signed up to the Fan Leader Programme, along with fans from the 30 other competing countries.

The scheme has been derided as a "sinister, distasteful" marketing exercise by supporters groups.