German ex football star joins criticism of Qatar on gay rights

Oliver Bierhoff, the technical director of the German football team and former football star, said on Saturday that World Cup host Qatar's "treatment of homosexuals is absolutely unacceptable".

German football official Oliver Bierhoff at a press conference on 9th June 2022.
German football official Oliver Bierhoff at a press conference on 9th June 2022. Photo: Daniel Löb/dpa

In the build up to the World Cup, which kicks off on November 21st, Qatar’s human rights record has come under mounting criticism.

Bierhoff, a World Cup runner up in 2002 who will be with the German team at the finals, said he was unhappy that homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state.

This “does not correspond in any way to my convictions”, he said in an interview with the Funke group of German regional dailies.

“What criteria does FIFA actually use to award a World Cup?” Bierhoff asked.

“The awarding of a tournament is the most powerful weapon to push for the necessary changes, he said, but those changes “must occur before the choice of the country and not after, otherwise we have no more means of pressure.”

He said the team wants to showcase the values of modern Germany, beyond soccer.

“I think it is globally good that we continue to talk about these themes outside the sports field, to raise awareness,” he said.

World Cup organisers have been struggling to convince lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer fans among the 1.4 million expected at the World Cup that they will be safe.

Concerns were raised at the FIFA Congress in Doha in March. The world body says that LGBTQ symbols will be allowed in any stadium, while Qatari authorities have appealed for outsiders to respect their “conservative” culture.

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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.