World’s only openly gay active pro footballer is concerned for LGBTQ community ahead of Qatar 2022 tournament
When Qatar announced it would hold the football world cup, it was met by widespread criticism. The Gulf state’s history of anti-LGBTQ laws and treatment of LGBTQ people made it a perfect candidate for the tournament.
Qatar’s laws, which criminalize gay sex and criminalize sex acts between two men, make homosexuality a crime punishable by five years in prison and fines. In 2015, two men were convicted of a crime for having sex, and were sentenced to five years in prison.
While Qatar did not have a specific anti-LGBTQ law when the tournament was announced, its penal code still allowed for “proposed or pending penal offences to be amended by a decree published in the Official Gazette.” Qatar’s laws prohibiting homosexuality were a “proposed or pending” law.
Qatar 2022, the tournament for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, would host the tournament for the second time, the first having taken place in 1986.
So when the country announced it was bringing the 2022 tournament back, even after the country had banned its citizens from attending the first one, there was widespread optimism for the tournament.
A former professional footballer who is gay had a message for LGBTQ people on their journey to the tournament.
Esa Babakhanov is known by the Twitter handle “gayatrijan” and he is one of the only open gay, bisexual and transgender players to play professionally.
“When I saw the announcement on [Qatar’s] official website, I went to the website of LGBTQ in Qatar to find out their thoughts on Qatar 2022,” Babakhanov told PinkNews.
Babakhanov has been vocal in the past about his support for LGBTQ people in the country.
In September last year, he told PinkNews via email: “I support any LGBTQ person coming to Qatar