A brief awkward moment crept into Portugal Vs Uruguay World Cup group game as a fan bearing rainbow flag ran into the pitch, to the dismay of all.
While pitch invasions by fans during live football matches have been a recurrent decimal, pitch invaders always carry out their actions with clear intentions and objectives.
While they may be blamed for disrupting play and garnering a few minutes of fame and attention, they always seem to deliver messages in the process.
Portugal Vs Uruguay match had to be temporarily called off yesterday after a brave fan with a rainbow flag and scripted shirt beat the efforts of pitch stewards and raced down into the pitch.
The invader picked his pace down the pitch amidst wild cheers from spectators who gleefully watched the drama unfold as two pitch stewards ran towards him to wrestle him down.
Before the invader was bundled out of the pitch, the message was sent. He was carrying a rainbow flag and also wore a blue T-shirt which carries politically-charged statements, with a superman logo.
On the front of the T-shirt, it was emblazoned “Save Ukraine,” and on the back, it bears the caption, ” Respect for Iranian Women.”
Apparently, the rainbow flag carried by the pitch invader was a protest against Qatar’s discrimination against LGBT+ communities.
His T-shirt bears prints protesting two more controversial events that have dominated today’s political debate – the war in Ukraine and the Iranian protests.
Meanwhile, the invader was chased down by stewards after he diagonally ran across the pitch with Uruguay and Portuguese players unmoved and just looking at him.
He was eventually wrestled down to the floor and then bundled out of the pitch by three stewards, but has dropped the flag on the pitch, which Iranian center referee Alireza Faghani picked it up.
The invader carried three politically-charged statements into the pitch – the call to stop the war in Ukraine, end the government clampdown on Iranian protesters, and an end to Qatar’s discrimination against LGBT communities.
How do these relate to the World Cup?
Global political crisis has come to the fore after as the world got ready to host one of the most followed sporting events in the globe, with over a billion audience according to estimates.
Russian war and the 2022 World Cup
Russia hosted the 2018 edition of the World Cup and was en route to qualifying for the tournament before they were banned from the competition following the war in Ukraine.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino had called on the warring parties to sheath their swords as they prepare for the World Cup.
Although the plea fell on deaf ears, it was worth recognizing the place of peace, and human worth as the world prepares for the most entertaining sporting events.
Qatar LGBT+ concerns in the World Cup
The World Cup in Qatar was mired in controversies over Qatar’s human right records and the place of LGBT fans, given the country’s clampdown on LGBT+ communities.
While Qatar has remained unyielding, asking fans to respect the culture of its people, FIFA has preached tolerance as western teams continue to vent their spleens.
The place of LGBT communities in the host nation has dominated discussions and is a significant flashpoint of conflict between western teams, FIFA and Qatar.
The Iranian protesters during World Cup
The invader also pointed to the protest in Iran after a young woman died in the custody of Iran’s moral police after she was arrested for the wrongful wearing of a Hijab.
This has sparked protests, with some Iranians calling for a boycott of the World Cup while others call for Iran to be kicked out of the competition.
Who was the invader?
The invader was later identified as a 35-year-old Italian named Mario Ferri.
He is said to be a serial disruptor of sporting events. Mario Ferri bears the nickname the falcon.
He had reportedly disrupted games, including AC Milan vs Real Madrid in the 2010 Champions League, the Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi between Internazionale and Mazembe in the same year and World Cup games in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.
FIFA Code of Conduct on pitch invasions
The incident on Monday was the first instance of a pitch invasion at Qatar 2022. Fifa’s stadium code of conduct, included with all tickets bought for the World Cup, clearly states that “All persons must not enter the field of play.”
The code also prohibits “any materials included but not limited to banners, flags, fliers apparel and other paraphernalia that are of a political, offensive and/or discriminatory nature,” but also goes on to forbid anything which discriminates against a person’s sexuality.
Meanwhile, FIFA and the Supreme Committee in charge of the World Cup in Qatar are yet to comment on the incident.