A FIFA representative has closed off a shocking question at a Women’s World Cup press conference that ‘put Moroccan players in danger’ by asking whether any were gay or not.
Morocco, which is almost exclusively Muslim, is the first Arab country to qualify for the tournament.
Defender Nouhaila Benzina will make history when she becomes the first player to wear a hijab at a senior women’s soccer tournament, so the North African country of 37 million people is breaking new ground.
But those innovative players could have been ‘endangered’ by a rogue BBC reporter who asked captain Ghizlane Chebbak at Sunday’s press conference if there were any gay players in the squad.
Given that same-sex relationships for both men and women are illegal in Morocco, and homosexuality is punishable by up to three years in prison, it was a question that surprised attendees.
Morocco captain Ghizlane Chebbak was unimpressed after a reporter asked if there were any gay players on the team. Homosexuality is illegal in the North African country
Nouhaila Benzina will become the first player to wear a hijab at a Women’s World Cup
Moroccan stars Fatima Tagnaout (left) and Ghizlane Chhiri (centre) visit the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium ahead of their tournament debut against Germany.
A disappointed Chebbak brushed off the question. The FIFA moderator quickly shut down the reporter, but for many pundits the damage had been done.
Moroccan media in attendance were audibly surprised by the question, according to the athleticwith journalist Steph Yang scathing on the question that puts player safety at risk.
“A reporter here asked directly if there are gay players on the Moroccan team, given that same-sex relationships are illegal in Morocco,” he wrote in Twitter.
“From a damage reduction perspective, this is not an appropriate question for a player and would have endangered the players themselves.
“Obviously we are going to talk about the intersection of politics and sport at this World Cup, and it is vital to do so.”
‘But we must be careful that our questions do not cause further harm to those affected by those same policies.
Moroccan players, including Nouhaila Benzina, center, train in Melbourne ahead of the team’s first match of the tournament.
Ghizlane Chebbak brushed off the shocking question in front of a FIFA moderator, then silenced the reporter.
CBC Canada Muslim journalist Shireen Ahmed also objected to the line of questioning.
The reporter was completely out of line. Damage reduction is important and the question did not need to be raised with the captain or coach. The question was dismissed by a moderating FIFA press officer, but it shouldn’t have been asked,” he commented.
The reaction to the shocking question was swift and fierce throughout the media world.
‘That’s why we advocate for diversity in sports media, but also why we yell that you need to diversify… learn empathy and decorum along the way. This is unacceptable,” said Nubia, host of the popular US podcast Shea Butter FC.
What does sexuality have to do with soccer? The dumb, ignorant and self-proclaimed reporter should be sent home and never again be accredited by FIFA,” one writer suggested.
“I know women’s soccer is much more inclusive than men’s, but if you’re a journalist trying to get players out when they could be persecuted or jailed at home, that’s not a good idea,” another expert said furiously.
It’s time for that reporter to attend some ethics in journalism classes. Imagine thinking it was acceptable to ask people to risk their freedom/security in this way (not to mention how massively none of your business is that question)’, wrote a third journalist.
Ghizlane Chebbak (top) and Assia Zouhair (black uniform) pose for their World Cup portraits before the tournament
Morocco kicks off its maiden Women’s World Cup campaign on Monday night against a strong team from Germany, which is expected to challenge for the title in the tournament’s pointed finale.
Chebbak said all the players were aware of the hugely historic moment for their country.
“We are honored to be the first Arab country to participate in the Women’s World Cup,” he said.
“We feel that we have to take a great responsibility to show a good image and show the achievements that the Moroccan national football team has made in terms of progress in qualifying for the (women’s) World Cup.
“This is a big milestone for us and we hope that our match against Germany tomorrow will pave the way for other matches.”