For the first time during the 2022 World Cup, a person ran onto the pitch during a match, displaying various political stands on their shirt.
A spectator ran onto the field carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a blue shirt that read “SAVE UKRAINE” on the front and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN” on the back during the second half of Monday’s match between Portugal and Uruguay in Lusail Stadium in Qatar.
Security officials chased the spectator, who eventually dropped the flag onto the field. The flag laid there for a few moments before a stadium staffer came by to collect it. The spectator was ushered off the field and through a tunnel. It wasn’t immediately clear if the person faced any charges or had been detained by police.
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This World Cup has faced several layers of controversy — even before the first ball was kicked. Qatar’s laws against, and treatment of, LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the run-up to the first World Cup in the Middle East. Qatar has said everyone is welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture.
Players from around the world have chosen different forms of protest to signal their disapproval of the exclusion of LGBTQ members.
As an example, several European teams were expected to wear “One Love” armbands, which feature a heart with rainbow colors, as part of a show of solidarity for the inclusion of all. FIFA indicated that players wearing the armband would be threatened with yellow cards, leading to the federations of the teams involved to ask their players not to wear the armbands.
The German national team covered their mouths during the pre-game team photo Wednesday before its eventual loss to Japan.
During the group stage of the tournament, focus also surrounded Iran. Players for the country did not sing their national anthem before their first match in protest of the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the country’s morality police.
Amini’s death has set off a series of unrest in Iran.The protests have seen at least 450 people killed since they started, as well as over 18,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Watch in Iran, an advocacy group following the demonstrations.
The tension has carried over to the World Cup, where fans wearing shirts with Amini’s name and carrying opposition flags and banners have clashed with government supporters. Some fans booed during the anthem before the first game.
Contributing: Nancy Armour; Associated Press