“I think with a bit of flexibility and compromises on both ends it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup,” he added.
Critics said Cleverley, a member of the centre-right Conservatives and a supporter of same-sex marriage rights, was essentially asking LGBT fans to hide their identity in a country where homosexuality is a crime. According to the US State Department, consensual sex between men is prohibited under Qatari law, which does not explicitly prohibit sex between women. Sex between men is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Qatar continues to mistreat LGBT people ahead of World Cup, rights group says
Gary Lineker, former British national football star, tweeted: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gey. Is that a message?”
“Don’t be gay at the World Cup,” read Thursday’s edition cover up British tabloid Metro.
Lucy Powell, who speaks on behalf of the opposition Labor Party on sport and culture, called Cleverly’s comments ‘shockingly tone deaf’. She urged the government to challenge FIFA “for how they have put fans in this position” and not “for defending discriminatory values”.
Downing Street rebuked Cleverley’s comments, saying in a statement that people should not “compromise who they are,” according to the Associated Press.
Amid the criticism, Cleverly reiterated his stance, telling British broadcaster Sky News that “we have incredibly important partners in the Middle East” and that “it’s important that you respect the culture of your country when you’re a guest in a host country.”
When asked if he planned to attend the World Cup, which runs from November 20 to December 18, Clelley said he would because “it’s an important international event” where other interlocutors will be present. He said he also had to be there to protect British travellers.
Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday that arbitrary arrests and violence against LGBT people continued in Qatar last month.
The Gulf state’s treatment of disadvantaged groups such as migrant workers has come under scrutiny since it was awarded the right to host the tournament. Qatari leaders have resented criticism of their country, saying the attacks were carried out by “people who cannot accept the idea that an Arab-Muslim country would host a tournament like the World Cup”.
Andrew Jeong contributed to this report.