Out Soccer Star Josh Cavallo 'Welcome' in Anti-LGBTQ+ Qatar

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday December 1, 2021
Originally published on December 1, 2021

Out soccer star Josh Cavallo has expressed fear about the idea of playing at the World Cup in anti-LGBTQ+ Qatar next year, but the chief executive of the event's organizing committee says he'd be welcome, UK newspaper The Guardian reported.

"We welcome him here in the state of Qatar," Nasser Al Khater told CNN, adding, "we welcome him to come and see, even prior to the World Cup."

Indeed, Khatar insisted, the Islamic nation has been "unfairly and unjustly" critiqued. "The notion that people don't feel safe here is untrue," Khatar told CNN. "I've said this before and I say this to you again, everybody is welcome here.... Qatar is a tolerant country. It's a welcoming country. It's a hospitable country."

What remains true, however, is that not only does Qatar not recognize same-sex marriage, but just being LGBTQ+ is illegal there. Even "campaigning for LGBTQI+ rights in the country is outlawed," the Guardian noted, and "A 'danger index' compiled in 2019 to guide LGBT travelers rated Qatar as the second most dangerous place to travel for queer people."

Khatar downplayed the country's hostile laws, framing the issue as one of "modesty" and insisting that "public display of affection is frowned upon, and that goes across the board — across the board."

"Qatar and the region are a lot more modest, and Qatar and the region are a lot more conservative," the official said, before going on to add: "We respect different cultures, and we expect other cultures to respect ours."

Qatar's homophobic laws have been a source of contention ever since the hosting of the 2022 World Cup was awarded to the country in 2010. Cavallo, a British player who came out in October, recently said on a Guardian podcast that if he were to be asked to play on Britain's team in next year's World Cup, he'd be afraid of traveling to, and playing in, Qatar due to virulent anti-LGBTQ+ laws there.

"I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it's something I'm very scared [of] and wouldn't really want to go to Qatar for that," Cavallo told the Guardian.

"Homosexuality is potentially punishable by the death penalty for Muslims in the country under sharia law," the Guardian affirmed, "although human rights reports have said there is no evidence any gay people have been executed for the offense."

"At the end of the day the World Cup is in Qatar, and one of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country," Cavallo said, "and to know that this is in a country that doesn't support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and makes me re-evaluate — is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.