‘Everyone is welcome’: Qatar World Cup organiser to gay footballer Josh Cavallo

Illegal in Qatar, homosexuality is punishable ranging from flogging to imprisonment and even execution.

After Josh Cavallo, who became the world’s only current openly gay top-flight professional footballer when he came out last month, expressed safety concerns on his participation in FIFA World Cup next year in Qatar, tournament chief assured that the Adelaide player would be welcomed in the country.

Illegal in Qatar, homosexuality is punishable ranging from flogging to imprisonment and even execution. Tournament organiser Nasser Al Khater, however, said that Qatar is like any other society in the world and assured that ‘nobody feels threatened here.’

Speaking to CNN, Al Khater said, “We welcome him here in the state of Qatar, we welcome him to come and see, even prior to the World Cup. 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. Qatar is like any other society in this world. Everyone is welcome.

Al Khater insisted that there is nothing to worry other than public display of affection. “Listen, public display of affection is frowned upon, and that goes across the board – across the board. Qatar is a modest country. That’s all that needs to be respected. Other than that, everyone is free to live their life.

“They [gay people] 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.”

Al Khater accepted the World Cup could be used as a platform for protests to be made against Qatar but said that was not a concern for organisers.

“All scenarios are open and all scenarios are on the table,” he said. “Are we worried about it? No, I wouldn’t say we’re worried about it”.

Cavallo, 21, became the first active A-League player to come out as gay, saying he was done with feeling ashamed about his sexuality and the exhaustion of trying to live a ‘double-life.’

“I’m a footballer and I’m gay. All I want to do is play football and be treated equally.” the 21-year-old had said on a video posted on Adelaide’s social media, drawing support from fellow professionals across the world.

Australia’s professional players union said it was a ‘wonderful moment’ for him, the sport and “the LGBTI+ community” and Cavallo’s fellow professionals also offered support.

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