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Soccer Federation Head Apologizes for Gay Sex Joke

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Dec 17, 2010
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The head of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) sparked a firestorm when he joked that gay soccer fans headed to Qatar in 2022 for that year’s World Cup would have to refrain from having sex. Now he has apologized.

FIFA officials determined on Dec. 2 that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup match. When asked whether he had any concerns over cultural conflicts between the nation, a monarchy where Islamic law holds sway, and gay Western soccer fans, FIFA president Sepp Blatter quipped that gays heading to the event "should refrain from any sexual activities" while in Qatar, reported the BBC on Dec. 14.

Blatter then said that because the sport transcends national and cultural boundaries, he foresaw "no problems" in 2022. "You see in the Middle East the opening of this culture, it’s another culture because it’s another religion, but in football we have no boundaries," he said, according to British newspaper the Guardian on Dec. 14. "We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings be it on this side or that side, be it left, right or whatever."

But Blatter’s paean to unity through sports was forgotten in light of his jocular initial response, which instantly sparked outrage and led to calls for Blatter to apologize or to step down. Openly gay retired NBA athlete John Amaeche slammed the comment, blogging, "Blatter’s words aren’t really about sex, as I can’t imagine that many gay football fans would be bold enough to do it in public in Qatar," On Top Magazine reported in a Dec. 17 article. "Rather, what he is really saying is ’Don’t be camp, don’t hold hands, don’t look into each other’s eyes, don’t book rooms with one bed, don’t have candle-lit dinners in the restaurant ...’ and on and on."

The comment amounted to FIFA having "endorsed the marginalization of LGBT people around the world," Amaeche wrote.

A Dec. 17 Associated Press article said that Blatter apologized for the comment while in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. "It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination," Blatter told reporters. "This is exactly what we are against. If somebody feels that they have been hurt, then I regret (it) and present apologies."

According to Juris Lavrikovs of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Qatar, a Gulf nation, punishes gays for intimate contact with consenting adult partners, as do about 70 other nations globally, the AP reported.

Reporting on Blatter’s original comment, gay athletics site OutSports posted text on Dec. 14 that read, "He went on to say that all fans will be admitted into matches. Oh, thanks. That’s reassuring. The most homophobic sport in the world chooses one of the most homophobic nations in the world to host their world championship and gay people are supposed to be cool because we’ll be allowed into the matches... even though if you dare have sex or are overt in your sexual orientation, you could be imprisoned."

OutSports went on to note that when Cape Town in South Africa hosted the World Cup last summer, "sex was big business." The comment linked to a CBS News article from May 7 that reported on how sex workers from around the world were converging on Cape Town, anticipating that plenty of clients would be among the 400,000 soccer fans expected to be in town for the once-every-four-years sporting event.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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