The FIFA World Cup, a football competition in principle, but in practice, a month-long event that represents so much more.
It’s a competition about equality, hope and inspiration for all, whether you are black, white, heterosexual, homosexual, male, female, non-binary or any other race, gender or sexuality.
It’s a competition that sets the tone for societies around the world, breaks down boundaries and one that reminds us that, beyond football rivalries, none of us are really that different.
Some host nations have done a better job of continuing that theme than others, and the last World Cup, in Russia, was a big test indeed.
The tournament wasn’t safe for all LGBTQ supporters, despite organisers making the right noises, but it did, at least, provide the community with some sort of opportunity to break down barriers, whether those efforts were successful or not.
In Qatar, that opportunity will not be there.
Take the word of Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of the tournament’s organizing committee.
He told CNN: “The notion that people don’t feel safe here is untrue. I’ve said this before and I say this to you again, everybody is welcome here. Everybody is welcome here and everybody will feel safe here. Qatar is a tolerant country. It’s a welcoming country. It’s a hospitable country.
“In different countries, there is more leniency to public displays of affection.
“Qatar and the region are a lot more modest, and Qatar and the region are a lot more conservative. And this is what we ask fans to respect. And we’re sure that fans will respect that…We respect different cultures and we expect other cultures to respect ours.”
Any reasonable person reading that can see that Al Khater is asking LGBTQ fans not to show affection for each other during the competition.
Now, of course, different countries have different cultures, different rules, but this issue should make Qatar an ineligible country to hold the World Cup.
To ask a certain category of fans to suppress their emotions, and to suppress themselves, goes against everything the World Cup represents.
And while the World Cup can serve as a catalyst to change, it simply cannot serve that purpose when held in a country that refuses to change, learn and listen.
LGBTQ fans – and indeed people – stand at the same level as everyone else, they are not worth an ounce less or an ounce more.
This is their World Cup – and indeed their sport – as much as anyone else’s, and it’s abhorrent that they are not welcome in Qatar.
And sure, Al Khater can tell members of the LGBTQ community they are welcome, but they are not. They cannot be welcome if they are being asked to display a different version of themselves.
This is not the only reason the award of the World Cup to Qatar was unacceptable, there are many other issues that should be discussed.
But don’t tell us everyone is welcome at this World Cup, and don’t tell us this is a country ready to host the competition, ready to spread hope and opportunity to all.
It’s not the first host country to fall into that category, that much is for sure, but for the sake of diversity and progress, FIFA should make it the last.