A Qatar World Cup ambassador has told German television broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality is "damage in the mind", as the Gulf state prepares to host the global tournament in less than two weeks.
In an interview filmed in Doha and to be screened today, former Qatari international Khalid Salman addressed the issue of homosexuality, which is illegal in the conservative Muslim country.
Some football players have raised concerns over the rights of fans travelling to the event, especially LGBT+ individuals and women, whom rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against.
The country expects more than one million visitors for the World Cup.
"They have to accept our rules here," Salman said, in an excerpt of the interview. "[Homosexuality] is haram. You know what haram [forbidden] means?," he said.
When asked why it was haram, Salman said: "I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind."
The interview was then immediately stopped by an accompanying official. Qatar's World Cup organisers, when contacted by Reuters, declined to comment.
World football's ruling body FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
"Obviously these comments are terrible," Germany's interior minister Nancy Faeser, who visited Qatar a week ago, said on Tuesday.
Faeser said she had received security guarantees from the local interior minister and prime minister and that this applied to the protection of homosexual fans as well as against possible racist or anti-Semitic attacks.
"I have no new indications from him [Qatari interior minister] now that anything should have changed in this regard," Faeser told reporters.
Rasha Younes, LGBT rights senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in the UK, said: "Salman's suggestion that same-sex attraction is 'damage in the mind' is harmful and unacceptable.
"The failure of the Qatari government to counter this false information has a significant impact on the lives of LGBT residents of Qatar, ranging from fuelling discrimination and violence against them to justifying subjecting them to state-sponsored conversion practices."
Human Rights Watch recently released a report saying that Qatari security forces were continuing to arrest citizens who were gay, lesbian, and transgender, sometimes forcing them to undergo conversion therapy.
Qatar's government has said the report contains false allegations.
LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall's director of communications and external affairs Robbie de Santos said human rights were being "disregarded and disrespected".
Speaking to BBC World Service's Sport Today, he said: "It's surprising and disappointing the Qatar authorities have given assurances to the United Nations and other multilateral bodies about respecting human rights during the tournament and making commitments to social progress, and what we're seeing is those commitments are not being kept on with.
"That's why it's so important that all of us are listening globally and following the tournament and knowing that football really is everyone's game, that we all speak."
Organisers have repeatedly said everyone was welcome in Qatar during the World Cup.
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup but the small nation has come under intense pressure in recent years for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.
The country's human rights record has led to calls for teams and officials to boycott the 20 November -18 December tournament.
-Reuters / BBC