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Former Egyptian footballer Aboutrika faces backlash over homophobic comments

Mohamed Aboutrika criticised the Premier League's pro-LGBT+ Rainbow Laces campaign on Qatari TV
Mohamed Aboutrika (C) playing during the Match of the Legends in homage of Jules Francois Bocande, at the Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium in Dakar, Senegal, 7 January 2019 (AFP)

Former Egyptian football player turned sports pundit Mohamed Aboutrika has dismissed a Premier League LGBT+ campaign during a TV show on the Qatari beIN Sports channel.

Aboutrika referred to homosexuality as a "phenomenon", which, he said, “broke through our society” and that it is “not only against Islam’s nature but against human nature”.

“It’s a dangerous ideology and it’s becoming nasty, and people are not ashamed of it anymore,” the player said.

“They will tell you that homosexuality is ‘human rights'. No, it’s not human rights, it’s in fact against humanity."

His comments have earned him backlash on Twitter, where users have also been criticising Premier League and beIN Media for tolerating his comments.

“As a global media group we represent, champion and support people, causes and interests of every single background, language and cultural heritage across 43 hugely diverse countries, as we show every day,” said a beIN Media group spokesperson in response to the criticism.

The campaign that Aboutrika was speaking out against is called #RainbowLace in which Premier League players wear shoelaces in the colours of a rainbow flag that symbolises the LGBT+ movement.

A legendary player

Aboutrika is widely considered to be one of the greatest football players in Egypt’s history. Between 2004 and 2014, the forward guided Cairo-based club Al-Ahly to seven domestic league titles and five African Champions League triumphs, scoring over 150 goals in the process. 

For the Egyptian national team, he scored 38 times in 100 appearances, helping the Pharaohs to Africa Cup of Nations glory in 2006 and 2008.

He often spoke out on political issues during his playing career, including voicing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and lending support to the pro-democracy protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square that led to the overthrow of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The 42-year-old has lived in exile in Doha since 2017, where he works as a pundit for broadcaster BeIN Sports. He moved to Qatar after he was added to Egypt’s state terrorism list after a tourism company he helped set up was accused of being linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood - an allegation the football star denies.

His name is listed to remain on Egypt’s state terrorism list until May 2023, despite appeal attempts by the court.