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19th Dec, 2022

The Pride of Wales

Tracy Brown is the co-chair of The Rainbow Wall, the supporters group for LGBTQ+ fans and allies of the Wales national team. She describes her pride at how Welsh supporters in Qatar represented both their country and its values, and why change is needed at the top of FIFA.

I was sad to hear how Wales fans wearing rainbow bucket hats had them confiscated at the World Cup, but I can’t say I was surprised.

Back in June, some of us in The Rainbow Wall were deliberating about whether to go to Qatar.

But I’m glad that everyone I know decided not to because I think the way our community and our allies have been treated out there has been shambolic.

Even FA Wales staff had their hats taken off them and put in the bin. It even started with just women being picked on, which was ridiculous. It was handled really poorly.

We needed to let the world know exactly was happening because it went against everything that FIFA had been saying. From my point of view, they haven’t really been in charge of this tournament at all.

I decided not to travel to Qatar as a gay woman because there are people there who live in hiding, unable to be their authentic selves in their own country, yet supposedly I’m welcome.

I worry about what happens once the World Cup is over - we all need to stay vocal and keep these conversations going.

Working with Football v Homophobia Cymru and Cardiff Dragons FC, we’ve been part of a campaign at home called ‘We Belong’, and we’ve also been supporting Dr Nas Mohamed.

He’s been so vocal over the last six months and has set up the Alwan Foundation to continue advancing LGBTQ+ human rights in the Gulf region.

Amid the celebrations, we can’t forget the cost of this World Cup.

Many people have lost their lives building it. Women in the region don’t have a voice. LGBTQ+ people fear persecution or prison. We have to look at the whole picture.

There needs to be fundamental change at the top of FIFA. We even have a President who thinks he can speak for everybody!

The women’s game stands for equality, diversity and inclusion and I believe a lot of women’s national teams wouldn’t even want to set foot in Qatar for a World Cup. People high up in men’s football should think seriously about that.

At least our little country of Wales raised the roof when we were over there. Our fans stood proud as a united Red Wall on the biggest stage. The way we sing our anthem with such power and passion meant a lot of people around the world fell in love with us.

It brings me back to those rainbow bucket hats.

They weren’t just a symbol to show that the Rainbow Wall wasn’t in Qatar - they were also a statement of our values as a nation. Now we must look to build on those values, in both the men’s and the women’s games.

Kick It Out’s Vice Chair, Chris Paouros, is urging the football family to focus on FIFA’s failings. Join 115,000 people who have already called for an urgent overhaul of FIFA by signing her petition here.