"Qatar 2022 will be a celebration of unity and diversity — a joining of people from all walks of life — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression — everybody will be welcome,” FIFA said a few months ago in a Pride Month statement.
And so, the rainbow armbands are unworn because “we can’t put our players in a position of facing FIFA sporting sanctions” said the 7 European team spokespersons who intended to wear them. Protest without fear of consequence isn’t protest at all.
David Beckham was the first EPL footballer to appear on the front cover the popular gay magazine Attitude. But if he isn’t prepared to follow such publicity by his deeds today his gesture is meaningless. Becks has a £150million deal to be “an ambassador” for Qatar and promote their hosting of the World Cup in his words “to make the world a more tolerant and inclusive place.”
Perhaps he may consider now his reputation. Matt Cain, editor of Attitude between 2016 and 2018, thinks Becks actions matter more than his words “It was radical when Beckham appeared on the cover. So many gay men have a difficult relationship with football, and Beckham said he was proud to be a gay icon. Now he’s taking money from a regime that tortures and kills us. He must have known the damage it would do to his brand, but he took the money anyway.”
Maybe Goldenballs will think about his actions a little deeper, although thinking isn’t his strong point. Being sent off in St. Etienne for kicking an Argentinian player off the ball, after 17 year old Michael Owen had scored a wonder goal, cost England their World Cup hopes in 1998.
Compare his actions to those of the Iranian footballers who refused to sing their nation’s anthem. Captain Ehasan Hajsafi said before the England game "Let them know that we are with them and sympathise with them. We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy.” I’m sure he and his teammates understand there are consequences for their actions when they return home.
And great to see Iranian women attending the game…because they can’t in Iran.