FIFA’s rainbow U-turn, Qatari supporters quit on their side again, Iran fans boo anthem

As the on-field action heats up, as always there’s also plenty happening off it in Qatar. Here’s all the latest behind-the-scenes World Cup news.

Qatari fans head for the exits early

As the minutes ticked down in the tournament-opening Qatar-Ecuador clash with the hosts well out of the game, swathes of empty seats could be seen around Al Bayt Stadium. The Qatari fans, evidently, had no interest in sticking around once it was apparent there was no comeback on the cards from their side.

In this morning’s defeat to Senegal, which makes it virtually impossible for Qatar to reach the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup, the locals were once again making a beeline for the exit after the African nation had gone up 2-0.

The home side would get a consolation goal, avoiding a scoreless campaign, but both their lack of competitiveness and the fact fans couldn’t be bothered to stick around for the final whistle in a game at a home World Cup paints an unflattering picture. Qatar are set to take on Netherlands in their final group stage game back at Al Bayt Stadium – it remains to be seen whether the fans are still in their seats come full-time.

Reports have also revealed questionable crowd counting, with some attendance figures higher than the official stadium capacity, despite obvious collections of empty seats easily visible at many venues. The crowd figure for Qatar-Ecuador at the 60,000-capacity ground was announced at 67,372, while England’s 6-2 win over Iran was ostensibly played in front of 45,334 at Khalifa International Stadium, which only holds 40,000.

FIFA pull rainbow hats U-turn

In a 180-degree turn from scenes of American journalist Grant Wahl being detained for simply donning a rainbow T-shirt and Wales fans’ hats confiscated by stadium security during their clash with the United States, supporters were free to wear their rainbow colours to Wales’ clash with Iran.

A subset of Wales fans are known as the “Rainbow Wall”, a pro-LGBTQI community who, in collaboration with the Football Association of Wales, produced rainbow hats for fans to wear in their side’s first World Cup appearance for 64 years.

Homosexuality is, of course, illegal in Qatar, explaining the opposition to rainbow apparel by security and officials.

A Wales fan dons the rainbow hat (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

“In response to the FAW, FIFA has confirmed that fans with Rainbow Wall bucket hats and rainbow flags will be allowed entry to the stadium for @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday,” FAW tweeted.

“All World Cup venues have been contacted and instructed to follow the agreed rules and regulations.”

No issues regarding the acceptance of the new policy were reported at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium as a 10-man Wales outfit were shocked by two late Iranian strikes.

Wales, who are unlikely to qualify for the round of 16 after a loss and a draw in their first two fixtures, round out their group stage fixtures against old foes England at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium. Expect to see plenty more rainbow hats on Wednesday morning (AEDT) now that the ban has been lifted.

This ad-hoc change is just the latest baffling last-minute decision made by FIFA after the world governing body backflipped on selling beer within World Cup venues, the move announced just days before the opening match.

Fans boo anthem as Iranian protests continue

Prior to their sensational 2-0 win over Wales, Iranian fans booed their own national anthem as protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody show no sign of slowing down both at home and within the travelling contingent in Qatar.

Amini died at the hands of morality police after she allegedly breached local dress standards for women, including the hijab.

The booing and jeering was so loud the stadium speakers were being drowned out as Iran supporters comfortably outnumbered their Welsh counterparts.

The playing squad, who in their own protest stayed silent as the anthem played before their 6-2 defeat at the hands of tournament heavyweights England, did sing the anthem today, albeit performing a less than convincing rendition.

And in scenes that are now becoming familiar in Qatar, stadium security removed a shirt adorning Amini’s name from an Iranian fan.

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