English Soccer Supporters are not Permitted to Appear as Crusaders during the Qatar World Cup

English Soccer Supporters are not Permitted to Appear as Crusaders during the Qatar World Cup

There won’t be any medieval knights present when the men’s national team of the United States plays England later on Friday in the Qatar World Cup.

According to the Times of London, FIFA, the organization that governs soccer, has warned English soccer fans to put away their fake chain mail, shields, and swords or risk missing the game.

“Crusader costumes in the Arab context can be offensive against Muslims. That is why anti-discrimination colleagues asked fans to wear things inside out or change dress,” the newspaper quoted a FIFA official as saying.

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At the start of the teams’ second game in Qatar at 10 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET), both nations will be seeking to advance from the group stage into the crucial knockout round with a victory.

Even though they are not the tournament favorites, England defeated Iran 6-2 on Monday. Wales, which has not previously qualified for the event in decades, and the United States drew 1-1.

Iran beat Wales 2-0 earlier on Friday, increasing the pressure on the U.S. to pick up the points they need to qualify from Group B.

The Crusades, when Christian countries waged a series of wars on the Muslim-controlled Holy Land, with some of them trying to reclaim Jerusalem to strengthen different rulers’ claims to Christian grandeur, are at the focus of the dispute over the decision to forbid the costumes.

Similar attire was worn by England supporters while viewing various sports events in the past. Press images and video from social media platforms demonstrate that England supporters wearing Crusader apparel were admitted to the stadium to watch their team play Iran.

But despite their ancient origins between the 11th and 13th centuries the Crusades reverberate today.

Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, wrote in his manifesto: “ASK YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD POPE URBAN II DO?,” referring to the pope who called on Europeans to go to war against Islamic forces in the Middle East in 1095, leading to the first Crusade.

President George W. Bush also used the term in announcing his “war on terror” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, causing alarm and anger.

“This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while, and the American people must be patient,” he told reporters at the White House on Sept. 15, 2001.

Indian journalist and author Sameer Arshad Khatlani made this point in an opinion piece published Thursday night, in response to the Crusader outfit controversy.

“I believe global sporting events have a great unifying power to bring the world together and to promote peaceful co-existence,” he told NBC News.

“The last thing we need is the promotion of ideas such as the Crusades howsoever inadvertent as they have caused among the worst atrocities in human history.”

And talk of Crusades is even more relevant in the Muslim world, said Simon John, a senior lecturer in medieval history at Swansea University in south Wales.

“As soon as you know anything about crusading history, you know it would produce a reaction like this in the Islamic world,” he said.

“We’re talking about a period of history that is still very much remembered and talked about in the Muslim world in quite a detailed way the same is not true in the West.”

It is unclear whether the people wearing the knight outfits know they are dressed as Crusaders or as St George, the patron saint of England.

That England fans wear the red-and-white cross of St George, also the English national flag, is a long-lasting result of the popularity of the cult surrounding George as a military saint during the Crusades. George is thought to have fought in the Roman army and died in the early 4th century, so wouldn’t have fought in the Crusades.

The British Foreign Office advises traveling Brits: “Qatari laws and customs are very different to those in the U.K. Be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend.”