Qatar had won the race to host the 2022 World Cup many expressed their surprise at the choice, mainly because the small Arab nation has virtually no real footballing heritage to speak of and because it frequently endures summer temperatures of well over 40°C.
Now FIFA president Sepp Blatter has inadvertently raised more question marks over the choice of venue after jokingly suggesting that gay fans "should refrain from any sexual activities". Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Unsurprisingly gay rights groups have condemned the comments and some have even demanded Blatter's resignation; former basketball star John Amaechi even accused FIFA as being "very, very clearly uncomfortable with this issue and certainly not interested in taking it seriously".
Amaechi makes a very good point; the reaction of Blatter to the question of homosexual rights in Qatar - to laugh - serves to trivialise what is a very real issue. Qatar was one of the countries which only recently helped to remove homosexuality from a UN resolution which lists proscribed reasons for executions; that the nation continues to discriminate on grounds of sexuality is something which should have figured in FIFA's decision to base the tournament there.
Some, such as Chekov over at Three Thousand Versts, suggest that mere restraint on the part of homosexual fans should be enough to guarantee their enjoyment of the World Cup. He also points out that other activities taken for granted in the western world - such as drinking alcohol and overt petting between heterosexual couples - will also face restrictions in this innately conservative society and that adjustments to personal behaviour will effect many who come to Qatar. Despite this being a global event respect for local customs will, it is argued, have to be adhered to even if they are clearly discriminatory.
But where this proscription against homosexuals would really be tested would be if a gay player were to be barred from entering Qatar or from taking part in the competition, a perfectly reasonable scenario would there not be a complete derth of openly gay footballers worldwide. That the lack of homosexual sportsmen and women is almost certainly due to homophobia in various forms is exactly why this is an issue Blatter and the rest at the top of FIFA should be taking seriously and not merely giggling about in a press conference.
As for respecting local customs, the World Cup should not be taking place in a country which denies certain basic freedoms to sections of society whilst at the same time allowing others to enjoy those same freedoms. We're not merely talking restraint here; we're talking about the complete denial of a certain sexual orientation whilst suggesting that another is morally superior and enshrining that position in law.
Making homophobia more acceptable is not a legacy FIFA should be aspiring to create.