LUSAIL, Qatar – In what appears to be the first in-game demonstration to support LGBTQ rights at the 2022 World Cup, a protester rushed onto the field with a rainbow flag, disrupting the match between Portugal and Uruguay on Monday night.
The protester also wore a shirt that read “RESPECT FOR IRAN WOMEN” and “PROTECT UKRAINE”. He ran from the sideline for most of the field before being interfered with by security.
As he ran, he waved the flag, a universal symbol of LGBTQ pride and taboo in Qatar, where homosexuality is criminalized and all LGBTQs are marginalized. During the first week of the World Cup, fans and journalists were barred from entering the pitch for wearing rainbow-coloured T-shirts, masks and hats.
World Cup organizers apologized for these incidents and assured fans that flattering wear is allowed at venues. But it doesn’t appear in the broadcasts. FIFA has also threatened European teams with “sports sanctions” if they wear anti-discrimination armbands with rainbow colors similar to, but not identical to, their captain’s pride color scheme.
Monday’s show was the first time during the Qatar World Cup, when the color leaked onto most American TV screens. Some broadcasts caught the fans, who dropped the flag on the field before being detained, for a short time.
The referee then took the flag and carried it to the edge of the field, where it briefly stood next to the fieldside billboards. A stadium guard then ran to pick him up and hauled him off the field of play.
Many international broadcasts turn away from fans, as do most of those occupying the pitch at all football matches. But field-level photographers captured the protest in full.
The front of the shirt was a reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The back is a reference to the women’s rights movement in Iran, which has been the subject of major demonstrations in and around the stadiums this World Cup, which led to brutal crackdowns by the country’s repressive government.