When the United States men’s team takes on England in the World Cup in Qatar later on Friday, one thing will be missing: medieval knights.
Soccer’s governing body FIFA has told English soccer fans to ditch the chain mail, shields and imitation swords or miss the match, according to the Times of London.
“Crusader costumes in the Arab context can be offensive against Muslims. That is why the anti-discrimination colleagues asked the fans to put things on backwards or change their clothes,” a FIFA official was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The teams’ second match in Qatar kicks off at 10 pm local time (2 pm ET), with both nations hoping for a win that will help them advance from the group stage to the high-stakes knockout stage.
While underdogs to win the tournament, England beat Iran 6-2 on Monday. The United States, meanwhile, drew 1-1 with Wales, which until this year had not qualified for the tournament in decades.
Iran beat Wales 2-0 on Friday, increasing the pressure on the USA to get the points they need to qualify from Group B.
The controversy surrounding the decision to ban costumes centers on the Crusades, when Christian kingdoms launched a series of wars in the Muslim-controlled Holy Land, with some aiming to recapture Jerusalem to burnish Christian claim to glory. various rulers.
Similar outfits have been worn by England fans at previous tournaments while watching other sports. Press photos and social media images show England fans wearing Crusader gear were allowed into the stadium to watch their team’s game against Iran.
But despite its ancient origins, between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Crusades resonate today.
Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, wrote in his manifesto: “ASK YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD POPE URBAN II DO?”, referring to the Pope who called on Europeans to go to the war against Islamic forces in the Middle East in 1095, leading to the First Crusade.
President George W. Bush also used the term when announcing his “war on terror” after the 9/11 attacks, sparking alarm and anger.
“This crusade, this war on terror is going to take a while, and the American people have to be patient,” he said. told reporters at the White House on September 15, 2001.
Indian journalist and author Sameer Arshad Khatlani made this point in a opinion piece posted Thursday night, in response to the Crusader outfit controversy.
“I think that global sporting events have great unifying power to bring the world together and promote peaceful coexistence,” he told NBC News.
“The last thing we need is the promotion of ideas like the Crusades, however unnoticed, since they have caused one of the worst atrocities in human history.”
And talk of the crusades is even more relevant in the Muslim world, said Simon John, senior lecturer in medieval history at Swansea University in south Wales.
“As soon as you know something about the history of the crusades, you know that it would produce a reaction like this in the Islamic world,” he said.
“We are talking about a period of history that is still very much remembered and talked about in the Muslim world in quite a detailed way; it is not the same in the West.”
It is not clear if the people who wear the gentleman’s costumes know that they are dressed as crusaders or as Saint George, the patron saint of England.
That the red and white cross of St George, also the English national flag, is used by English fans is a lasting result of the popularity of the cult surrounding George as a military saint during the Crusades. George is believed to have fought in the Roman army and died in the early fourth century, so he would not have fought in the Crusades.
The British Foreign Office advises British travelers: “Qatari laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. Be aware of your actions to ensure you do not give offence.”