The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known as FIFA, awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. But there's one very disappointing and quite frankly shocking part of a World Cup in Qatar: Gay people aren't welcome. That's because in Qatar, male and female homosexuality is illegal and could be punishable by flogging and imprisonment of up to five years.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser al-Ali, the sports minister for the 2022 World Cup host Qatar, was asked how gay people will be welcomed. He responded, "Qatar doesn't want to create this impression, illusion that we don't care about our tradition and our ethical values ... We are studying all these issues. We can adapt, we can be creative to have people coming and enjoying the games without losing the essence of our culture and respecting the preference of the people coming here. I think there is a lot we can do."
This statement was nothing more than a scripted public relations response and completely avoided the question. What he meant to say is that if you're gay, don't bother coming to the World Cup and if you do, there's no guarantee for your safety.
As a former professional tennis player, I had the opportunity to play on courts all over the world, even in some nations where our country's core beliefs, and my own personal beliefs for that matter, didn't align with the nation I was competing in. I can say from personal experience, that sports has a magical way of allowing countries to unite and put their differences aside temporarily, and put the focus on a friendly yet competitive event. This is evident every four years in the Olympics, where nations from all over the world come together. And in that three week period, the focus is on unity, peace and sportsmanship, regardless of politics, religion or anything else.
Unfortunately, the difference this time in Qatar is it's crossing the line. Discrimination of gay people doesn't just impact America, Europe or any other nation. It impacts people around the world. It's nothing more than hatred, discrimination and bigotry. And it's for that reason that all nations should boycott the World Cup until Qatar reverses its laws on gays, or FIFA finds a new host city for the games. If enough mentally tough people band together and boycott FIFA in the name of equality, it can be done.
FIFA doesn't exactly have a perfect track record in this area. The next World Cup is being help in Russia, another country not exactly known for its hospitality towards gay people. There's no such thing as the perfect country, but when a host country clearly slaps equality in the face and demoralizes a large segment of the global population, something needs to be done.
Robert Hampton "Robbie" Rogers, an American professional soccer player who plays for The LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer, came out at the age of 25 after hiding his secret from the world for years. And when you have a country like Qatar spewing this kind of hatred around, it's easy to understand why. Rogers said, "Whether it was joking or whether it was malicious, I just heard so many different things that scarred me and made me think that there's no chance I'm ever going to come out -- ever -- to anyone. So that's probably why, again, I kept it in for so long. That's why I didn't tell anyone until I was 25."
Organizations like FIFA and the country of Qatar take away from the true spirit of the sport through their discrimination. They don't understand that there are plenty more Robbie Rogers out there, all suffering to come to terms with their sexuality. Sadly, some of these people even take their own lives over it.
Discriminating over one's sexual preference is uncalled for in any and all circumstances. It's common senses that homosexuals are no better or worse than anyone else, and should be left alone to live life on their own terms.
In the meantime, soccer fans must boycott the World Cup and demand that another country serves as host for the 2022 event. It's the only right thing to do.