The President of the International Federation of Association Football (known as FIFA – from “Fédération Internationale de Football Association”) has now apologized for an "off the cuff" comment he made. When asked by reporters about the safety of LGBT soccer fans when the 2022 World Cup is held in Qatar - where it's illegal to be gay - FIFA President Sepp Blatter said “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.”
"It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination," Blatter said in Abu Dhabi, which is hosting the Club World Cup. "This is exactly what we are against. If somebody feels that they have been hurt, then I regret (it) and present apologies."
First, what does Blatter think he gains from using the "if" language? He knows he offended people. Quite a few of them, in fact. Most of whom are fans of his sport, and very few of whom I imagine will be satisfied with this type of lame half-apology.
Second, if FIFA truly did not want to "go into any discrimination," then why select such a discriminatory place to host your quadrennial championship event? It's not only illegal to be gay in Qatar, but it's also punishable by up to five years in prison. In the mid 1990s, an American citizen was sentenced in Qatar to receive 90 lashes during a 6-month prison term - for being gay. If discrimination really is "exactly what (FIFA is) against," then choosing Qatar is a funny way of proving it. Instead of acknowledging a large and growing fan base of LGBT people and supporters, FIFA's selection of Qatar sent a very clear message that the sport simply does not care about them. And that's not even including the players.
There are doubtlessly plenty of LGBT players involved in the sport right now, at this very second. In 12 years, when the Qatar games are held, not only will that number have grown, but many of those players will be out. The future stars of this sport are right now still in grade school - and these are the messages coming from the sport they love.
- We don't have any problems holding our flagship event in a country where you could be arrested for being who you are.
- If you are gay and you don't want to be harassed, you should just stay closeted.
Now, the world gets a half-apology for the second, but still no acknowledgment whatsoever of the first.
These messages are being received by today's fans and today's players. They are also being received by today's parents of TOMORROW's fans and players. And all of the above got the message loud and clear that FIFA does not care about the rights of its LGBT fans or players.
This is what Sepp Blatter and FIFA should be apologizing for.