The chief executive of next year's 2022 FIFA World Cup has responded to human rights concerns following statements made by Adelaide United's Josh Cavallo last month. Qatar prepares to host football's biggest tournament at the end of next year.
The chief executive's response was in part a rebuttle to the A-League player. Cavallo said last month that as an openly gay player he would be scared to go to Qatar for next year's FIFA World Cup.
2022 Qatar World Cup Cavallo concerns
- Adelaide United's Josh Cavallo became the first openly gay top flight footballer in October when he publicly came out.
- The Australian has expressed his concerns about the 2022 Qatar World Cup where homosexuality is illegal.
- The tournament's chief executive has replied that Cavallo would be welcome.
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Cavallo became the second openly gay professional footballer in October of this year, following American Collin Martin's coming out in 2018. Martin competes in the American second-division USL while Cavallo plays in the Australia's A-League, making him the only top flight openly gay male player in the world.
The question of the whether holding the World Cup in Qatar next year, a country where male homosexuality is illegal, sends the wrong message was brought to Cavallo in a podcast interview by the Guardian. The young Australian replied:
"It does sadden me to see that. I read something along the lines of that (they) give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar.
"So it is something that I am very scared (of) and wouldn't really want to go to Qatar for that.
"And that saddens me because at the end of the day the World Cup is in Qatar.
"One of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country.
"To know that is a country that doesn't support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me.
"That does make me re-evaluate, is my life more important than doing something great in our career?
"Look it is 2021, at the end of the day everyone deserves to be themselves."
Only Muslims potentially face the death penalty in the country under sharia law. Human rights reports have stated that there is no evidence that any gay individual has been executed in Qatar due to homosexuality.
Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, has now come out and rebutted Cavallo's concerns with regards to safety, stating that all are welcome next year during an interview with CNN.
"On the contrary, we welcome him here in the state of Qatar, we welcome him to come and see even prior to the World Cup," Al Khater told CNN's Amanda Davies with regards to Cavallo.
“Nobody feels threatened here, nobody feels unsafe here.
“I think, unfortunately, maybe he’s getting this perception because of reading a lot of these accusations or reading a lot of these news stories that shine a negative light.
"I think Qatar is like any other society in this world. Qatar is not different than any society in this world."
When pressed by Davies on the fact that open homosexuality is not allowed, Al Khater said to CNN:
"Everyone is welcome. Public display of affection is frowned upon and that goes across the board. Qatar is a modest country. That is all that needs to be respected.
"Other than that everyone is free to live their life."
Al Khater pushed back when asked to clarify what would be acceptable with regards to homosexuality in Qatar but confirmed that same-sex marriage was illegal and not recognized in the country, specifying:
“They (gay individuals) will be coming to Qatar as fans of a football tournament. They can do whatever any other human being would do.
"What I’m saying is Qatar, from a public display of affection factor, is conservative.”
At present, the probability of Cavallo making it to Qatar is a small one. The Adelaide player has yet to be called into a Socceroos camp. The 22 year old has put on the Green and Gold in the past at the youth level, playing for the Joeys.
He did win Adelaide's rising star award last season but only recently broke into the club's starting line-up, utilized most recently as a left-back. Most recently Australia has played Aziz Behich and Bradley Smith in that position for the Socceroos.
While it is currently improbable that Cavallo would make the World Cup squad, taking note that the Socceroos have yet to qualify for the tournament, should both qualification and his selection occur, at present it would make him the only openly gay player competing in a country where one can be imprisoned for homosexuality.
More information on the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 can be found on FIFA's website.