The chief executive of Qatar 2022 has attempted to assure football fans from the LGBT community they will be welcomed at next year’s World Cup in the country.
The Gulf State, which will host the global showpiece tournament in November and December 2022, has laws against same-sex relationships.
Australia international Josh Cavallo, who is openly gay, recently said he would be “scared” to play in Qatar.
The Adelaide United player said: “I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it’s something I’m very scared [of] and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that.”
Nasser Al Khater, the tournament’s CEO, claims the country is misunderstood.
Al Khater told CNN: “We welcome him (Cavallo) 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.
“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.”
Asked if gay people can feel safe in Qatar, he said: “They 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.”
Qatar has received a lot of criticism of its human rights record in the build-up to the tournament, particularly in regard to its treatment of migrant workers involved in the construction of facilities.
Al Khater has claimed in the past that a negative perception of the country has taken hold that is unfair.
Asked if he felt that was still the case, he said: “Over the past few years, it’s probably gotten a little bit worse.
“And no matter how much the state of Qatar puts forward, in terms of really accelerating progress, that’s never captured, and that’s never reflected and that’s not ever something that’s communicated.”
Al Khater realises there is a possibility certain players or teams could use the World Cup platform to make protests about Qatar during the tournament but he insists it is not a concern.
He said: “All scenarios are open and all scenarios are on the table, are we worried about it? No, I wouldn’t say we’re worried about it.”
He is also confident there will be no major instances of fan trouble in Qatar, such as the scenes that marred the Euro 2020 final at Wembley last summer.
He said: “It’s unfortunate, what we saw at the finals in Wembley, but I’m pretty sure that that won’t happen here.”