Qatar World Cup ambassador says homosexuality is ‘damage in the mind’

Comments made in interview with German television station ZDF

Remarks by a Qatar World Cup ambassador have been called “harmful and unacceptable” after he described homosexuality as “damage in the mind”.

Khalid Salman, a former Qatar international footballer, made the comments in an interview with the German broadcaster ZDF.

Asked about the fact that homosexuality is illegal in his country, Salman said: “They have to accept our rules here. (Homosexuality) is haram. You know what haram means?”

When asked why it was haram, or forbidden, Khalid Salman said: “I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.”


Salman was speaking in his capacity as an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup, a role he shares with a number of football legends including Cafu and Xavi Hernández. Organisers described the role of ambassador as “harnessing the power of football to create positive social change in Qatar, across the region and around the globe”.

Rasha Younes of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch said: “Salman’s suggestion that same-sex attraction is damage in the mind is harmful and unacceptable.”

Last month HRW published a report documenting what it claimed was “arbitrary” police action against LGBTQ+ residents in Qatar, including six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022. A Qatari official said HRW’s allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false”, without specifying.

Fans hoping to travel to the World Cup have also expressed concerns over safety in the country. Documents seen by the Guardian publication suggest police will be told not to take action against public displays of affection or those who protest for LGBTQ+ rights.

Last week the president of Fifa, Gianni Infantino, insisted that “everyone is welcome (at the World Cup) regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality”, echoing comments made by the organisers in Qatar. The statement came as part of a letter in which he pleaded with football associations and their players to put aside discussion of political and human rights issues surrounding the tournament and “let the football take the stage”.

Fifa, the World Cup organising Supreme Committee and the Qatari government have been approached for comment. – Guardian