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Man bursts onto World Cup pitch waving rainbow flag and wearing activist shirt

Rachel Lang

| Last updated 

Man bursts onto World Cup pitch waving rainbow flag and wearing activist shirt

A man has staged a brazen public protest against both Iran, Qatar, and Russia during the World Cup Group H match between Portugal and Uruguay.

During the second half, play was halted for about five minutes when a man ran onto the pitch brandishing an LGBTIQ+ pride flag and a shirt with several slogans designed to draw attention to two major world issues.

The man wore a shirt that read 'Respect Iranian Women' on the back and the Superman logo on the front above the words 'Save Ukraine'.

Corriere della Sera, a daily Italian paper, has identified the pitch invader as former professional footballer Mario Ferri.

The official FIFA feed attempted to dodge the man as he darted away from security officers, but he was still visible in some shots as he gave them the runaround á la Benny Hill.

lol, bye Credit: Sportimage / Alamy
lol, bye Credit: Sportimage / Alamy

Ferri dropped the pride flag at one point, before picking it up and running off again.

When he was finally ushered away through a tunnel, it was left to Iranian referee Alireza Faghani to retrieve it.

It is not clear if Ferri was charged or detained.

Former Socceroos player turned commentator and human rights advocate Craig Foster praised the former footballer for his demonstration.

"He didn’t miss the opportunity. Well done to him, you’re always welcome in Australia," he said during the channel's live coverage.

Qatar, the small Middle Eastern nation hosting the World Cup, has copped flak in recent years over their poor track record on LGBTQ+ rights.

Tensions over their stance on non-heterosexual people have only heightened, with fans turned away from World Cup stadiums if they are adorned with rainbows or any pro-LGBT colours or slogans.

While Qatar has said LGBTQ+ fans are welcome during the tournament, they maintain visitors should respect the nation’s culture, in which public displays of affection are frowned upon.

World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman said, as per EuroNews: "During the World Cup, many things will come to the country. Let’s talk about gays."

"The most important thing is, everybody will accept that they come here. But they will have to accept our rules."

He added homosexuality was a 'damage in the mind'.

Italian professional footballer Mario Ferri made a political statement. Credit: BSR Agency / Alamy
Italian professional footballer Mario Ferri made a political statement. Credit: BSR Agency / Alamy

Football players were also blocked from wearing the OneLove armband during matches, which is designed to show support to LGBTIQ+ folk around the world.

The brazen protest in Qatar also addressed the treatment of women in Iran, where protests have been raging for two months after the death of Masha Amini.

The 22-year-old Iranian woman was arrested after she allegedly violated the country's strictly enforced dress code by wearing her headscarf too loosely.

But now, an Iranian general finally acknowledged that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest that exploded across the conservative Muslim nation, AP reports.

The death tally is the first admission from the government on casualties since riots broke out.

Oh, and the game. Portugal defeated Uruguay 2-0, securing their spot in the top 16.

Featured Image Credit: BSR Agency / Alamy.

Topics: LGBTQ, World Cup, World News, Sport, Football, News

Rachel Lang
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