BERLIN (AP) – An ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar has described homosexuality as a “damage in the mind” in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF only two weeks before the opening of the soccer tournament in the Gulf state, highlighting concerns about the conservative country’s treatment of gays and lesbians.
Former Qatari national team player Khalid Salman told a German reporter in an interview that being gay is “haram,” or forbidden in Arabic, and that he has a problem with children seeing gay people.
Excerpts of the television interview were shown Monday on the ZDF news program Heute Journal. The full interview, which is part of a documentary, will be shown Tuesday on ZDF.
About 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar for the tournament, which has faced criticism and skepticism ever since the gas-rich emirate was selected as host by FIFA in December 2010. Concerns about LGBTQ tourists attending the World Cup have also been expressed for a long time.
In the interview, Salman also said that homosexuality “is a spiritual harm.”
“During the World Cup, many things will come here to the country. Let’s talk about gays,” Salman said in English, which is simultaneously dubbed into German in the TV segment. “The most important thing is, everybody will accept that they come here. But they will have to accept our rules.”
The interview was cut short by a media officer of the World Cup organizing committee after Salman expressed his views on homosexuals, ZDF reported.