France’s Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera wore a sweater with rainbow-coloured sleeves to France’s World Cup quarter-final in Qatar on Saturday in a message of support for gay rights. Oudea-Castera, a former professional tennis player, watched the game from the VIP box as France beat England 2-1 to move a step closer to successfully defending their title. The rights of the LGBTQ+ community and the use of the rainbow symbol have been a recurrent point of discussion at the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
“It was important to express my support for human rights on the whole, notably LGBT rights.. and to do it in an unaggressive way with regards to Qatar, which is our partner,” she told Franceinfo radio.
Saturday was the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General assembly in Paris in 1948, she said.
Before the tournament, the French capital and several other major cities said they would not show matches from Qatar on public screens amid calls for a boycott of the competition.
President Emmanuel Macron, who argued that “we must not politicise sport”, is set to travel to Qatar on Wednesday to watch France play Morocco in the semi-final.
He had promised to support France in person if they made it to the semi-final.
“I will come back with the president on Wednesday,” Oudea-Castera told Franceinfo radio. “We’re working the details out.
“He (Macron) made this commitment and he will honour it with pleasure.”
Macron’s presence underlines the close ties between France and Qatar, which is an important gas supplier to Europe and major client for French military hardware.
France’s game with Morocco will be given added spice by the countries’ history, with Morocco one of France’s north African colonies during the 20th century.
France is also home to large Moroccan and Franco-Moroccan populations, with thousands of fans seen out in the streets celebrating on Saturday after the Atlas Lions beat Portugal 1-0.
Around 20,000 people headed to the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Saturday night where French and Moroccan supporters celebrated together, many of them with torn loyalties.
“It will be as if my father were playing against my mother,” Lilia, a 36-year-old woman of Franco-Moroccan origin, told AFP with a smile.
“I’m hugely proud, especially when you come from these two cultures, France and Morocco,” Hassan Ikan told AFP in a raucous bar just after the match.
“Seeing them both in a semi-final, it’s just utter joy,” he added.
The Champs-Elysees celebrations were soured late on Saturday night after police were targeted with fireworks and other projectiles, the city’s police department told AFP.
Seventy-four people were arrested and police fired teargas to disperse the crowd.
Football matches involving France and north African teams have been a source of divisive tension about immigration and national identity in the past.
A France-Algeria friendly in 2001 in Paris saw the French national anthem roundly booed in what was the first meeting on the pitch between the countries since Algeria’s independence in 1962.
Conservative and far-right politicians were incensed that many of those booing were apparently French people of Algerian origin.
The mood was not helped as the match had to be abandoned due to a pitch invasion with France leading 4-1.
“The Algerian national anthem was not booed, there was respect for Algeria,” said French player Lilian Thuram afterwards.
“Why did these young people, most of whom were born in France, boo their country’s anthem?”
Algeria’s victorious campaign at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations also saw clashes with police in France during fan celebrations.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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