Ahead of England’s World Cup clash with the United States on Friday, world football’s governing body FIFA said that Crusader costumes worn by England fans are “offensive” after it emerged that some supporters had been turned away from stadiums in Qatar.
FIFA says that “it strives to create a discrimination-free environment, to promote diversity across the organization and in all of its activities and events.”
Some England fans attend sporting events dressed as the English patron St. George, equipped with helmets, crosses and plastic swords.
However, FIFA told CNN that “Crusader costumes in the Arab or Middle East context can be offensive to Muslims. That is why anti-discrimination colleagues asked fans to wear things inside out or change dress.”
Christian armies fought Muslims for over 200 years to take back control of Jerusalem and its surrounding areas which were under Islamic rule.
During the tournament in Qatar, football fan attire has been in the spotlight, particularly any clothing or paraphernalia that have rainbow colors.
The rainbow flag is a symbol for LGBTQ rights, and in Qatar, sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison in the country. A report from Human Rights Watch, published last month, documented cases as recently as September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBTQ people and subjecting them to “ill-treatment in detention.”
At the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Monday, ahead of the United States Men’s National Team’s (USMNT) match against Wales, American football journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister both said they had been told to remove rainbow-colored items of clothing by security staff.
Wahl said he was detained and briefly refused entry to the match because of the “rainbow soccer ball t-shirt” he was wearing, posting on Twitter that security staff had told him: “You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed.”
“One security guard told me that my shirt was ‘political’ and not allowed,” Wahl wrote.
Wahl told CNN on Tuesday that he had been given assurances beforehand that he would be allowed to wear rainbow-decorated clothing and that he “probably will” wear the shirt again as he has “no fear here about any of this.”
McAllister – who captained the Welsh women’s national football team in the 1990s – said she was stopped by security officials and had her rainbow-colored hat confiscated before she was allowed to enter the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
“So, despite fine words from @FIFAWorldCup before event, @Cymru (Wales) rainbow Bucket hats confiscated at stadium, mine included,” McAllister tweeted of the incident.
“I had a conversation about this with stewards – we have video evidence. This #WorldCup2022 just gets better but we will continue to stand up for our values,” added McAllister.
The Welsh Football Association (FAW) said FIFA told the federation on Thursday that rainbow-colored flags and hats will be permitted at World Cup stadiums in Qatar.
When asked to clarify the dress code, FIFA referred CNN to the tournament handbook which states “expats and tourists are free to wear the clothing of their choice, as long as it is modest and respectful to the culture.”
In this handbook, it also states “body protection gear,” “weapons of any type” and “items with political, offensive or discriminatory messages” are banned.
Aside from this document, FIFA has a human rights monitor inside of each stadium and they will be responsible for determining what is acceptable or not.