English fans dressed as crusaders have been turned away from World Cup matches in Qatar because their costumes are considered “offensive to Muslims”.
Two knights in disguise were reportedly spotted on social media trying to get through security ahead of Monday’s England v Iran game while wearing chain mail and helmets bearing the St George’s Cross.
It is alleged that the pair, who also wore novel swords, were taken away by four officers at the security gate before kick-off.
And a similar experience could await viewers of tonight’s game against USA, where the Times reports that Three Lions fans have been banned from dressing up as the Christian invaders.
England fans, who have long supported the team clad in the guise of St George – the nation’s patron saint – at previous World Cups, are in trouble this time for doing so.
FIFA and anti-racism groups say that given the historical context, dressing up as a crusader in an Arab country like Qatar could be considered offensive.
Some residents of Doha seem to have been upset with the choice of outfit, as the wars of religion between 1095 and 1291 involved bringing lands and holy sites under Islamic control.
England fans dressed as Crusaders with chain mail, shields and swords are stopped by security forces outside a Qatar stadium
An England fan dressed as a crusader kneels at a security check at the World Cup in Qatar
Prince William urges England squad to avoid social media
Sam Greenhill, chief reporter in Doha
England manager Gareth Southgate spilled Prince William’s advice to the squad last night – avoid social media.
He said the heir to the throne gave invaluable advice when they met before flying to Qatar.
Southgate said the team is taking his advice to focus on games rather than social media headlines and distractions.
He said: “We like our base camp very much – we don’t have TVs, except for games.
“Obviously I’m sure the guys are following things on social media and the internet but we’ve spoken from time to time about the importance of ignoring those things.
“We actually had the future king come in and talk to the boys about which was one point we couldn’t have put to him better, about how to deal with social media.”
Southgate welcomed his side ahead of today’s England-USA clash, adding: “These players are putting our country on the map – they’re reclaiming our seriousness on the world stage and we need to continue that.”
One of the Crusaders spoke to TalkTV after England’s 6-2 win over Iran on Monday.
The man, who was not named, said: “The problem in places like Qatar is that the fans are the essence of the game. We make the game.
“It’s not the corporations, they help financially in the background, we, the fans, make the football and we are the football.”
He said they stayed at the fan park and paid £250 a night.
FIFA said: “Crusader costumes in the Arab context can be offensive to Muslims. For this reason, the anti-discrimination colleagues asked the fans to wear the clothes inside out or to change clothes.
Kick It Out, the anti-racism campaigning group in football, said: “Certain clothing, such as costumes depicting knights or crusaders, may not be welcome in Qatar.
Researcher Robert Carter tweeted: “The clothing, complete with swords and crosses, is offensive due to the Crusader history of rape, slaughter and occupation of Arab lands.”
However, some English fans in Qatar pointed out that a jubilant Saudi Arabia fan was apparently allowed to wave a real three-foot scimitar in front of spectators outside the stadium after his side’s shock win over Argentina.
The most famous Crusades took place between 1096 and 1291, when Christian armies fought to liberate Jerusalem and the surrounding area from Islamic rule.
Footage from Qatar before and after the game against England showed the one group dressed as knights singing God Save the King and charging up the stairs on public transport. Some locals expressed shock at their choice of outfits – others asked them to pose for selfies.
Meanwhile, bars in Doha are requiring fans wearing traditional Arabic robes and hats to remove them for fear of offending locals and offending Islam.
The clothing has become popular with fans and is widely sold in the team colors of the 32 nations participating in the tournament.
The latest incident follows days of mounting criticism of Qatari police’s harsh treatment of fans amid the ongoing row over LGBT symbols in the Gulf state.
Qatari officials have repeatedly said that all are welcome at the World Cup, although same-sex relationships remain illegal in the country.
England and other teams planning to wear the “OneLove” armbands to send a signal against discrimination during the World Cup in Qatar were also “blackmailed” at the risk of “massive sporting sanctions”.
Fans and journalists from several nations have reported that rainbow-themed items, including T-shirts, bucket hats and flags, have been confiscated by officers.
Despite FIFA’s insistence that “all are welcome” in the Gulf state, fans, journalists and LGBT groups have all been subjected to an authoritarian crackdown that has seen rainbow clothing confiscated in stadiums.
Beer sales were also banned from stadiums in a stunning 11th-hour about-face by Qatari officials – leaving many fans furious and FIFA red-faced.
Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, urged all visitors to “respect our culture”, with fans expected to abide by the Gulf state’s rules and cultural practices.
WHAT WERE THE CRUSADES?
The Crusades were a series of religious wars fought between 1095 and 1291 in which Christian invaders attempted to conquer the Middle East.
It is known that the nobility led the Crusades, but historical records lack details of the enlisted men who traveled, lived and died in the Middle East.
Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade (1096–1102) to help the Christian Byzantine Empire, which was being attacked by Muslim Seljuk Turks.
The Europeans then conquered Jerusalem in 1099 and the Muslims quickly united against the Christian invasion.
Muslims firmly controlled Jerusalem until 1291 and remained in Islamic hands into the 20th century.
The Crusades set the stage for several religious knightly military orders, including the Knights Templar, the Teutonic Knights, and the Hospitallers.
These groups defended the Holy Land and protected pilgrims traveling in and out of the region.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars fought between 1095 and 1291 in which Christian invaders attempted to conquer the Middle East. It is known that the nobility led the Crusades, but historical records lack details of the enlisted men (file photo)