An Open Letter to Joseph S. Blatter, FIFA President

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 § 3

Dear Mr. Blatter,

On December 2nd, your organization announced that the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar.

Many in Qatar were unsurprisingly ecstatic, though others worldwide were slightly more skeptical. Reading about the choice, I came across a quote by Hassan al-Thawadi regarding his country that would see to assay any doubts:

We are a very, very hospitable place that welcomes people from all parts of the world," he said. "Bringing the World Cup to the Middle East now ... will showcase to the world that the Middle East is home to a lot of people, it's opening its arms to the rest of the world. In doing so, such misconceptions will be dissolved.

After reading this, I was glad. Though I’d of course prefer to have it in the States, I’m also pretty sick of Arab countries being portrayed as oppressive, backwards places. This was a great chance, I thought, for Qatar to have a chance to disprove that stereotype.

And then a story popped into my news reader, “Gays Will Boycott Fifa”, which quotes the Gay Football Supporters’ Network on their decision to boycott Qatar’s FIFA World Cup in 2022.

This decision was reached because homosexuality is illegal in Qatar due to Shariah law, and is punishable with up to five years in prison.

Mr. Blatter (and the rest of FIFA Executive Committee), when you decided on a good host country, did you consider the millions of LGBT soccer fans who would be considered criminals if the attended the World Cup.

Considering the decision of your 22 member committee, I’m going to hazard a guess that if you did, you quickly brushed them aside.

Even more egregiously, when questioned about the status of gay fans in Qatar, you joked that homosexual fans “should refrain from any sexual activities” that are illegal in Qatar. (video can be seen here)

Mr. Blatter, would you be so glib if your own liberties were at stake, if you were eligible to be lashed and locked up for having sex with a woman?

You then followed up those embarrassing words with a slightly more staid, “Football is a game that does not affect any discrimination. You may be assured … if people want to watch a match in Qatar in 2022, they will be admitted to matches.”

Okay, so LGBT individuals can attend matches. But can you guarantee their safety in the streets, or in their hotels? The World Cup is supposed to be a celebration of diversity groups of people, united through one thing-soccer. Does your vision not include members of the LGBT community?

Mr. Blatter, I understand your desire to broaden soccer’s reach across the world. But to do that at the expense of (what should be) basic human right’s, is irresponsible and foolhardy.

Unless you can guarantee that members of the LGBT community will be free from prosecution in Qatar in 2022, I will reluctantly participate in a boycott of the 2022 World Cup, and will encourage my peers to do the same.

Honestly, I’m not sure quite sure if you can fix this at this point. But there’s a few things you can do. Pressure Qatar to be hospitable to all human beings, like it claims. Retract your tactless remark. Make contact with an LGBT organization to ensure this doesn’t happen again (suggestion: gfsn)

And most importantly, apologize to the millions of LGBT soccer fans that you overlooked or ignored when this imprudent decision was made.

Sincerely,

Kyle Albert, a disappointed, 17-year-old, soccer fan.

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§ 3 Response to “An Open Letter to Joseph S. Blatter, FIFA President”

  • emilygw says:

    Kyle-

    What an awesome post. This is possibly my favorite post from you so far. You address so many important issues and you're right, the World Cup is supposed to be about acceptance of all people and unifying the world. Although Qatar probably won't change their laws just for the World Cup, it was irresponsible of Mr. Blatter to make that comment and shows an ignorance beyond words. I hope the World Cup Committee and and Qatar works to ensure the safety of all people at the World Cup, and if not, there could be serious reprecussions for the country, the spectators, and the committee, which would be a serious downer on such a fun event. Being straight, I would have no fears about going to Qatar, but it would be horrible for gay visitors of the World Cup to live in constant fear while they are in the country for being caught for doing something "illegal." The World Cup is such an amazing time in the world and brings such an energy to unifying all people. Let's hope this stays true in 2022! - Emily

  • Kyle,

    I must agree with Emily. This is definitely one of my favorites, if not my favorite, of your posts so far. When I first started reading, for whatever reason, I assumed you were quoting someone else's letter to Joseph Blatter. When I realized that the letter was your own, I was beyond impressed. It's one thing to point out problems in the world, but it takes real ambition to try to do something about those issues. I also admire your intention to boycott the 2022 World Cup. As a friend of yours, I would be more than happy to join you :)

    Great post!

    -Kate

  • Ben says:

    I'm Ben. I saw you commented on a Walk the Road post so I decided to check out your blog. I knew the World Cup would be held in Qatar, but I didn't know anything about Shariah law. I wasn't planning on attending any games, so my boycott may not be too effective, but I'll pass this story on to my friends, LGBT or not. Thanks for the post.
    -Ben

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