No Charges for Man Who Carried Pride Flag onto Qatar World Cup Field

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 30, 2022

No Charges for Man Who Carried Pride Flag onto Qatar World Cup Field
  (Source:AP Photo/Abbie Parr, File)

There will be no charges against Mario Ferri, the 35-year-old Italian soccer player and activist who carried a Pride flag onto the pitch at the World Cup in Qatar — though his permission to be in the country has been canceled.

UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported that, according to Ferri, the outcome was influenced by intervention from the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino.

The Mail recounted that Ferri, speaking with Spanish radio provider OndaCero, described how Qatari officials were trying to "decide how to punish me for this 'jump' on the pitch. But then at 4 in the morning, Infantino, the Italian president of FIFA came and he defended me."

Ferri went on to add that Infantino "helped me get out so as not to risk any controversy... and then I was freed. Qatar decided there were no consequences."

Aside, that is, from his Hayya card — which allows foreigners to remain in the country for the World Cup, gives them access to matches, and provides limited access to public transit — being revoked.

Ferri is a "serial pitch invader," according to Goal.com, which noted that Ferri "has appeared on football pitches before, legally. He's been a footballer for the last nine years, most recently contracted to Indian second division side United Sports Club." He has rushed onto soccer pitches mid-game for various causes since 2009.

The Mail relayed that Ferri himself noted his history of invading the pitch, telling OndaCero, "I like it. I've done it 12 times, at other World Cups in Brazil, in South Africa, always with good intentions, to send messages.

"I did [it in] Spain, your country too," Ferri added, "at Real Madrid against Milan in 2010 for an Iranian woman, Sakineh, who was condemned for adultery."

Ferri's Nov. 28 action took place as Portugal played against Uruguay. As previously reported, the activist had three political messages to get across: In addition to the Pride flag — a clear protest of the country's harsh anti-LGBTQ+ laws — Ferri wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the Superman logo and the words "Save Ukraine" on the front, while the back of his shirt read, "Respect for Iranian women."

Ferri's advocacy isn't limited to rushing soccer fields. He took direct action to help Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their country. Goal.com recalled that Ferri "rented a car to help evacuate people from Lviv, taking them to Poland."

Ferri's Instagram account seems to have been deleted at this point, but, the New York Post reported, the athlete took to the platform after his brush with Qatari authorities to make his case there, as well.

"FIFA banned the captain's armbands with the rainbow and human rights flags in the stands, they blocked everyone," Ferri posted, "BUT NOT ME, like a Robinhood 2.0 I brought the message of the PEOPLE. We want a free world that respects all races and ideas."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.