The Men’s World Cup in Qatar has drawn attention to human rights abuses in the country, with Canadian Soccer partnering with a group seeking to prevent homophobia in sport.
You Can Play is a project launched in 2012 to create an inclusive space for LGBT fans, players, coaches and everyone involved.
Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar, and while the Qatari government welcomes all lovers, including those who identify as LGBTQ, visitors must respect the national tradition of publicly expressing affection for those they dislike.
The timing of the partnership is not coincidental as Canada prepares to participate in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, said Earl Cochran, general secretary of Soccer Canada. Canada will also host the men’s World Cup in 2026, along with the United States and Mexico.
“It’s early stages, but it’s more about the message we want to send: No matter your sexuality, your gender identity, or who you choose to love, you have a place in this game,” Cochran told CBC Sports. “We’ve always believed it was, but we’ve never talked about it openly and openly. This is one of the important steps we’re taking now.”
Supporters of the popular Canadian team known as the Voyageurs have condemned human rights abuses in Qatar, including the treatment of migrant workers who came to build infrastructure for the tournament.
“We are appalled by the actions of the Qatari government against the country’s LGBTQ+ population and the many deaths that occurred during the construction of World Cup stadiums and infrastructure,” the club said, adding that they had joined other demands for public compensation. It is offered to families of deceased migrant workers.
Cochran said the association shows his company is listening to those concerns.
“On this occasion, we want to make sure that we’ve done everything we can and that we’re not thinking about enforcement or making statements that others might have,” he said. “We really want to make sure we’re doing something meaningful.
“We want to make a big impact on our sport and our country, not only nationally, but also internationally through football. In 2026, we will host the whole world, and this is an important step to prepare for it. .”
Cochrane said the four-year partnership has produced several key outcomes, including the creation of a hotline for all members associated with Soccer Canada, LGBTQ2S+ education through You Can Play for Canada’s men’s and women’s national teams, staff and Soccer Canada board members. Identify player ambassadors and create a national education program.
They will also conduct a national survey to better understand the issues facing LGBTQ2S+ youth and athletes, and complete a comprehensive review of Canada Soccer’s policies and programs for You Can Play.
“It is important to recognize that when there is a blackout in Qatar, we tell the public about it. “It’s important to show that we’re doing this on a national level,” Cochran said. “We know what is happening in Qatar, we are looking in the mirror and we need to do more.
“This is an opportunity for us to be a leader. I hope this message resonates around the world. This is an opportunity for others to learn about what we do and what we are doing to make our sport as desirable and safe as possible.”
David Palumbo, vice president of UPlay, said the organization is excited to partner with Canadian Soccer.”I want to thank Earl and his team for the conversations we’ve had over the past few months and the trust they’ve shown in our organization,” Palumbo said. “We look forward to continuing the important work of making our football fields, meeting rooms and locker rooms more accessible and safer for everyone.”
Canada opens the World Cup on November 23 against Belgium.