The World Cup is well underway in Qatar, but issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights for the Gulf state, world soccer governing body FIFA, teams and fans just won’t go away.
On Saturday, two German soccer fans told CNN that they were asked by security officials at Qatar 2022 to remove the rainbow-colored items that they were wearing as they made their way to watch the World Cup match between France and Denmark on Saturday.
CNN witnessed the conclusion to the incident at the Msheireb Metro Station, in Doha, as Bengt Kunkel, who was wearing a rainbow-colored sweatband and his friend – sporting a similarly colored armband – refused to hand over the items. The rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.
After taking the Germans to one side, a group of security guards eventually let them go – on condition that they put the rainbow-colored items in their pockets, according to Kunkel.
“Out of nowhere. They took my friend quite aggressively on the arm and pushed him away from the crowd and told him to take it [the armband] off,” Kunkel told CNN, as he recounted details of the incident shortly after it happened.
“Then they took me with him. They said: ‘You’re going to take it off and throw it in the bin or we’ll call the police.’”
The pair refused to throw their items in the bin and said they told security they could call the police.
“We had a little discussion, we were being respectful and said: ‘We’re not going to throw it away but we’re going to put it in our pockets’,” added Kunkel, who travelled to the World Cup to enjoy the soccer tournament, but also to use his social media platform to talk about LGBTQ+ issues and Qatar 2022.
Kunkel and his friend were then allowed to walk down to the station platform where CNN accompanied them to the match. Kunkel’s friend said he didn’t want to talk to CNN.
Once outside Stadium 974, Kunkel put the rainbow-colored armband and wristband back on and walked through security.
CNN witnessed Kunkel being allowed through, though the 23-year-old German was again taken to one side.
Kunkel then told CNN he was stopped four more times before being allowed to take his seat inside the stadium wearing the rainbow-colored items.