Skip to content

21st Dec, 2022

A World Cup 'For All'?

Rishi Madlani is co-chair of Pride in Football, the umbrella organisation of over 50 LGBTQ+ fan groups across the UK and a committee member of Foxes Pride, the Leicester City LGBTQ+ fan group. We caught up with him to reflect on the challenges that the World Cup in Qatar has posed.

Our whole movement and organisation has been really conflicted about this men’s World Cup.

As Pride in Football, we have a responsibility to LGBT+ fans and to LGBT+ people working in football.

All along, we knew there would be something missing in this tournament - people like us - and then on top of that, we’ve had the false advertising of this being ‘a World Cup for all’.

Some of our fans have boycotted even watching the games but for others, with long traditions of gathering round the TV for World Cups, this is a special time every four years to spend with family and friends.

It’s gut-wrenching. It’s been such an exciting tournament on the pitch but so sad that many fans simply haven’t felt able to go.

There’s a huge segment of the world’s population that’s been excluded.

We’ve raised these issues through our ‘No Pride Without All’ campaign. Full credit to Joe, my co-chair, who came up with the idea - there’s nothing more powerful than taking our rainbows away when they’ve been misappropriated.

Good faith engagement from FIFA and from the Qatari authorities could have helped more. I just don’t feel that ever really happened.

Gianni Infantino’s pre-tournament diatribe was absolutely unhelpful and before that, the comments from Khalid Salman - one of the World Cup ambassadors - about homosexuality being ‘damage in the mind’ were a slipping of the mask.

Throughout this, LGBT+ people in Qatar and the region have been at the forefront of our minds.

We’ve raised money for Dr Nas Mohamed’s Alwan Foundation and tried to amplify local voices. The challenge now will be what happens after the circus of the World Cup has gone.

Of course, we want the tournament to go around the world but countries that would imprison or even put to death LGBT+ people shouldn’t be given such a huge reward.

If Saudi Arabia are awarded hosting rights in 2030, that will be three out of four men’s World Cups in a row where LGBT+ people are either actively discriminated against or forbidden full stop.

So be honest with us, FIFA.

Just tell us when it’s really ‘a World Cup for straight people’ - don’t lead us up the garden path.

Either way, we’ll redouble our efforts and campaign even harder until everyone in football can be their true selves and we have FAs and authorities that are truly fit for purpose.

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.