Fifa president Sepp Blatter has apologised for saying gay fans should “refrain from sexual activity” if they go to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Blatter said: “It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination.
“If somebody feels hurt, then I regret [it] and present apologies.”
Blatter sparked the controversy when, earlier this week, he apparently joked: “I’d say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities” if they go to the Gulf Nation for the 2022 tournament.
Then, speaking seriously, he said he was sure there would be no problems.
Fifa has come in for criticism after making the decision to take the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time.
Concerns were raised about hosting the tournament during the summer months in a country where temperatures can reach 40C to 50C and where current laws mean drinking alcohol in public is forbidden.
Gay groups are also worried about the acceptance of homosexual fans, and the Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) say Blatter’s original comments showed naivety about gay discrimination.
Chris Basiurski, Chair of the GFSN says:
“Mr Blatter’s earlier comments demonstrated his and FIFA’s lack of understanding of the problems facing LGBT people across the world, and while we are pleased he has apologised, we still need reassurance from FIFA over the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and whether it will be safe for LGBT people to attend.
We hope that following his apology, FIFA will engage and work with us to address the issues we face in Qatar and tackle the issue of homophobia in football in general.”