World Cup Pitch Protester Released Without Charge, Grateful for Support

World Cup Pitch Protester Released Without Charge, Grateful for Support originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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A protester who ran onto the pitch during Portugal and Uruguay’s World Cup match in Qatar has been released without charge.

Mario Ferri held a pride flag and sported a T-shirt that said “Save Ukraine” on the front and “Respect for Iranian women” on the back while running across the field at Lusail Stadium on Monday. Play between Portugal and Uruguay was interrupted as security led Ferri off the field.

Ferri was released by authorities “after a brief detention,” according to the Italian foreign ministry (h/t BBC). His Hayya Card, a fan ID required for every person attending World Cup matches, was canceled.

Ferri took to Instagram on Tuesday to share his appreciation for the support he has received from around the world.

“Thank you for all the messages of love that I receive from the world, Iran and Ukraine. Breaking the rules if done for a good cause IS NEVER A CRIME.”

In his Instagram post, Ferri cited European teams backing down from wearing “OneLove” captain armbands in the face of potential on-field sanctions from FIFA. LGBTQ rights have been a point of contention in Qatar, where “instigating” or “seducing” a male to “commit sodomy” or “inducing or seducing a male or a female in any way to commit illegal or immoral actions” carries a prison sentence of one to three years. Soccer reporter Grant Wahl said he was detained for a short period prior to the U.S. men’s national team’s match against Wales for wearing a rainbow shirt.

Ferri also mentioned ongoing protests in Iran sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country’s morality police in September. Iranian players did not sing their national anthem ahead of their first World Cup match against England but did sing before their second match against Wales.

As for Ukraine, Ferri said in his post that he volunteered in Kiev and “saw how much people are suffering” in the country’s war with Russia.