Journalist refused entry to World Cup stadium and detained as T-shirt “not allowed”

Journalist Grant Wahl attended the World Cup match between USA and Wales but was refused entry to the stadium by Qatari officials due to him wearing a rainbow t-shirt

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World Cup: Wales fan with rainbow hat denied stadium entry

An American journalist was refused entry to Wales’ clash with the United States because he was wearing a T-shirt showing a rainbow football.

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar, with Mirror Football revealing last week that LGBT+ people in the country are being hunted, arrested, beaten and forced into conversion therapy. To show his support for the community, Grant Wahl decided to wear a T-shirt with a rainbow ball on to the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

But he has revealed that as he attempted to enter the stadium’s media entrance, he was stopped by security. They then proceeded to detain him for 25 minutes as they “angrily demanded” that he take off the shirt.

“You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed,” Wahl reported on security guard as saying on his blog. In the lead up to the World Cup, FIFA have frequently insisted that fans would be able to display the rainbow flag.

The Qatari authorities have refused to publicly confirm that stance though, with few assurances that LGBT+ fans would be safe in the country. After tweeting that security guards had refused him entry, Wahl’s phone was then “forcibly ripped” from his hands.

“Nearly half an hour passed. One security guard told me that my shirt was ‘political’ and not allowed. Another continually refused to give me back my phone. Another guard yelled at me as he stood above me – I was sitting on a chair by now – that I had to remove my shirt,” Wahl wrote.

“I told him no. ‘You can make this easy. Take off your shirt,’ one said. I told him no, adding that my shirt wasn’t political at all.”

DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 21: Players and officials line up for the national anthems prior to kick off in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Youssef Loulidi/Fantasista/Getty Images)

A fellow journalist, the New York Times’ Andrew Das, then walked past and was also detained after Wahl explained what was happening. They were then forced to face the CCTV cameras above them as one guard questioned where Wahl was from.

Das was then released before a security commander approached Wahl and apologised as he finally let him into the ground. A FIFA representative also later apologised, with the guards claimed they were ‘protecting’ him from fans who could harm him for wearing the T-shirt.

The incident came as security officials also confiscated bucket hats coloured in the Pride flag rainbow from Wales supporters. Rainbow Wall, the Welsh national team’s LGBT+ Supporters group condemned the incident.

“Our rainbow bucket hat. We are so proud of them, BUT news on the ground tonight is our welsh female supporters wearing them in #Qatar are having them taken off them, Not the men, just Women. @FIFAcom ARE YOU SERIOUS!!” the group tweeted.

They then added: “We have an update that in the end the Rainbow Hats had been taken from the men also but it didn’t start out that way. A reminder to our Red Wall out in Qatar please stay safe. We can not trust @FIFAcom at all and nothing they have said has been true.”

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