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ABACA/PA Images Mario Ferri has staged similar protests before.
World Cup pitch invader with rainbow flag released and banned from future matches
Protester was on the field for about 30 seconds during the game between Portugal and Uruguay.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 29th 2022, 1:36 PM

AN ITALIAN MAN who ran onto the pitch during a World Cup match in Qatar carrying a rainbow flag has been released following a brief detention, the Italian foreign ministry has said.

The man identified as Mario Ferri also wore a T-shirt with the words “Respect for Iranian Woman” on the back and “Save Ukraine” on the front.

Ferri was on the field for about 30 seconds during the second half of the game between Portugal and Uruguay before being tackled and escorted off by security.

“The foreign ministry, together with the Italian embassy in Doha, followed the case after the pitch invasion,” the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement sent to AFP.

“After a brief detention, he (Ferri) was released by the authorities without any further consequences,” the ministry said, without specifying where he was held or by whom.

The supporter has also been banned from releasing future matches at the tournament and had his Hayya Card – the identification document necessary to gain entry to Qatar during the World Cup – revoked. 

A spokesperson for Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy told The42, “Following the pitch invasion that took place during last night’s Portugal v Uruguay match, we can confirm that the individual involved was released shortly after being removed from the pitch. His embassy has been informed.

“As a consequence of his actions, and as is standard practice, his Hayya Card has been cancelled and he has been banned from attending future matches at this tournament.” 

Gay rights and the use of the rainbow flag have been a simmering issue at the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Captains of seven European teams had planned to wear rainbow-themed anti-discrimination armbands during the tournament as part of a campaign for diversity.

But they backed down over the threat of disciplinary action from football’s governing body Fifa, including yellow cards.

Ferri has staged similar protests before, including at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he raised the issue of children living in poverty.

On his Instagram account, Ferri posted images from inside the Lusail Stadium in Doha, where Portugal’s 2-0 win over Uruguay on Monday took place.

Ferri, 35, took to social media to outline his reasoning.

“I’m BACK,” he wrote on his Instagram page, where he describes himself as a “modern pirate”.

Ferri said he wanted to send “important messages”, including for Iran “where I have friends who are suffering, where women are not respected”.

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“FIFA banned rainbow captain’s armbands and human rights flags in the stands, they blocked everyone, BUT NOT ME, like a Robin Hood,” he wrote.

“SAVE UKRAINE. I spent a month in the war in Kyiv as a volunteer and saw how much those people are suffering,” he wrote, adding that “breaking the rules for a good cause is never a crime”. 

The incident was only briefly shown on television.

“We know what has happened around this World Cup… It’s a normal thing to happen,” Portugal player Ruben Neves said after the match.

“Of course, we are all with them as well. With Iran as well, with the Iranian women. So I hope it doesn’t happen, anything to the boy, because we understand his message, and I think all the world understands it as well.”

Fifa maintains rainbow-coloured flags and clothes will be allowed inside stadiums, but some spectators have been ordered to remove items of clothing with the logo during the first phase of matches.

– © AFP 2022 with reporting by Gavin Cooney 

For the latest news coverage on the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022, see here >


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