As one critic quipped: “What else is there at the World Cup?”
Gianni Infantino, head of the soccer governing body FIFA, on Sunday encouraged members of the LGBTQ community to attend the World Cup. “All are welcome” at the event next Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, he said.
But that could be a problem.
“Homosexual behavior is illegal in Qatar,” warned the Qatari Foreign Office. The Qatari legal code calls for prison terms of up to three years for “leading, instigating or seducing a male by in any way to commit sodomy or dissipation ... or to commit illegal or immoral actions.”
As for heterosexual couples, they can “hold hands” in Qatar, but not much more in public. “Showing overt affection and intimacy in public is frowned upon,” according to the Qatar Tourism Authority.
In an apparent nod to Western sports fans, women can wear shorts and skirts, and swimsuits on beaches, the London Times reported. But both men and women must wear conservative clothing in government buildings, museums and markets.
“Visitors (men as well as women) are expected to show respect for local culture by avoiding excessively revealing clothing in public,” the tourism authority said. “It is generally recommended for men and women to ensure their shoulders and knees are covered.”
Alcohol at the World Cup will be sold in “fan zones” and in parts of stadiums, but some areas will remain alcohol-free. Drinking in public and drunken behavior are strictly prohibited and can result in prison sentences of up to six months, according to the Qatari Foreign Office, The Independent reported.
The restrictions are certain to be a massive issue at the international event that will likely draw thousands of international soccer fans who have a remarkable reputation for being rowdy, raunchy — and drunk.
Concerns are particularly high for members of the LGBTQ community and for female sports fans who party hearty. It’s illegal to have sex outside of marriage in the ultraconservative nation, and migrant women who become pregnant out of wedlock risk imprisonment.
Late last year, female airplane passengers — including citizens of New Zealand, Australia and Britain — were strip-searched and forced to submit to vaginal exams after a newborn was found abandoned in the Doha airport. Qatar officials were initially stunned by the ensuing outrage.
The pending culture clash is just one of the controversies surrounding the Qatar World Cup.
The nation’s bid to be the venue for the cup was rated poorly from the start in a report for FIFA.
The nation had no soccer tradition and a small soccer audience, no stadiums that could host the competition, and was so hot during the usual World Cup competition schedule that a new time of year would have to be chosen, wreaking havoc with game schedules around the world, the initial assessment warned.
Qatar was also harshly criticized by the international community for human rights abuses, particularly concerning its army of migrant workers.
Despite all of the obstacles, FIFA’s executive committee voted in 2010 for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup — over the U.S. and Australia — after members were paid millions of dollars in bribes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The committee also picked Russia that year to host the 2018 World Cup in a vote also manipulated by bribes, U.S. indictments alleged.
Qatar has nearly completed the eight stadiums it needs for the Cup using migrant labor in squalid, oppressive conditions human rights organizations have compared to slavery. At least 50 migrant workers died in workplace accidents last year and some 500 suffered severe injuries.
At least 14 FIFA leaders were arrested by Swiss police working in conjunction with U.S. authorities in a dramatic scene at the association’s annual meeting in Zurich in May 2015. The crackdown was spearheaded by the U.S. after the World Cup was lured away with bribes, according to officials.
A series of court cases in the Eastern District of New York has revealed decades of wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering relating to illegal payoffs regarding venue choices, marketing and tournaments contracts in international soccer.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.