After all, David Beckham is something of a gay icon – or is that now in the past tense?
He is taking the Qatar World Cup shilling (said to be a sum worth approximately £150 million) despite the Middle Eastern country’s treatment of people in the LGBT community. Homosexuality in Qatar is punishable by death.
British comedian Joe Lycett announced that if the celebrity ex- footballer did not address the stupendous amount of money he’s receiving to promote Qatar and its hosting of the World Cup, he would shred £10,000 rather than donate it to gay charities. Beckham stayed schtum apart from some bull about the football pitch being a platform for progress.
You may be upset at the thought of ten grand being shredded in response, as you eke out your daily ration of heating in your house in these expensive times.
Fear not. No money was shredded in protest at the former England captain’s silence about the filthy lucre he’s being paid. Instead, Lycett did something symbolic. He tore up the cover of gay magazine, Attitude, targeting the edition when Beckham featured on the cover of it in 2002. And the money went to LGBT charities. Phew.
But Beckham has, I hope, wrecked his image, making him look like the poster boy for a hostile regime that mistreats the community he claims to support.
Not that the likes of Beckham appear to care about the anonymous gays – and females – that are so oppressed in Qatar. And threatened with torture and jail just for being true to themselves. (Not to mention the thousands of migrants who lost their lives building the stadiums in the heat.)
Last year, a World Cup official faced 100 lashes and seven years in jail for ‘extramarital sex’, which is illegal in the Gulf state, after she reported being assaulted there.
Paola Schietekat, from Mexico, was working for the World Cup organising committee when she said she was assaulted by a colleague who broke into her apartment. But the twisted Qatari authorities accused her of having an affair and charged her with extramarital sex.
The guy she accused was acquitted on the grounds that there was no camera evidence of the incident. She chose to flee the country.
Thankfully, earlier this year, the case against her was dropped. (One wonders if Beckham would feel cool about his daughter or wife walking around the Qatari capital, Doha, in skimpy t-shirts. I’d say he’d insist on designer burkhas.)
And now, in what is actually progress in a country that has medieval attitudes towards women and gays, a strange memo was issued from FIFA officials to Qatari police.
According to the Daily Mail, the police have been told that women will not face any accusations if they report rape or sexual harassment or violence. And for women who are pregnant and require medical care, they should be given it “regardless of the circumstances and will not face any accusations”.
This is a pre-emptive strike made in the knowledge that the risk of sexual violence rises significantly at major sporting events.
How ludicrous it would look to the world if a woman, subjected to rape or sexual assault during the soccer extravaganza, would be treated as a criminal – as is the norm in Qatar.
Police in Doha have also been told not to prosecute people displaying the rainbow or “other sexual identity flags” and those displaying signs of affection should not be arrested.
The only time I ever engaged with the World Cup was the Italia ’90 one. I was living in Dublin at the time. I remember Baggot Street being like a ghost town in the early afternoon.
I was in my flat, hosting lunch (including tricoloured pasta) for some female friends. One of the women declared that she wanted to have Packie Bonner’s baby! It was that kind of madness. Such fun, such a feeling of community. Irish people in 1990 almost took out second mortgages to travel to the World Cup.
As the editor-in-chief of Attitude magazine wrote recently: “The fact is that women’s rights, gay rights, human rights have too long taken a backseat when staging these global sporting spectacles.
“Sport should be a place where humanity shines its brightest, not one where voracious capitalism overrides human freedoms.”
Football is the worst offender when it comes to the visibility of LGBT players. David Beckham is such a disgrace to the cause.