Protester with rainbow flag banned from World Cup matches

A protester who ran onto the field during a World Cup match with a rainbow flag and a blue Superman T-shirt bearing messages in support of Ukraine and Iranian women was banned from attending matches at the tournament in Qatar on Tuesday.

The World Cup organizing committee said in a statement that “the person concerned was released shortly after being removed from the field” and that his embassy had been notified.

“As a result of his actions, and as is standard practice, his (entry permit) has been revoked and he has been banned from attending future matches at this tournament,” the statement said.

The protester identified himself on social media as Mario Ferri, an Italian who has previously performed similar stunts at football matches. Ferri ran onto the field on Monday in the second half of the game between Portugal and Uruguay with the rainbow flag. Security officials chased after him and Ferri dropped the flag on the field before being led away.

“I will call it ‘THE LAST DANCE’ my latest field invasion. I wanted to send IMPORTANT messages, which I have felt first hand over the last few months,” Ferri wrote in an Instagram post.

Ferri wrote that he has friends in Ukraine who are suffering and that he spent a month volunteering in the country after Russia invaded the country in February. In the days leading up to the opening matches, the captains of seven European teams were banned from wearing multicolored “One Love” armbands at World Cup matches in support of LGBTQ rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.

Some fans also complained that they were not allowed to bring items with rainbow colors into stadiums. Ferri said that prompted him to protest.

“FIFA banned the captains rainbow armbands and human rights flags in the stands, they banned everyone BUT NOT ME,” Ferri wrote, adding “like a Robinhood 2.0 I took the message to the PEOPLE. We want a free world that respects all races and ideas.” Ferri said police detained him for about an hour after the incident and treated him well.

He said FIFA President Gianni Infantino helped him secure his release without any punishment other than a ban on watching any more World Cup matches.

“But there is a solution for that too. I’ve prepared some magic for tonight,” Ferri said in an Instagram shot, without giving details.

Ferri has already interrupted several matches before. He said Infantino recognized him from running on the field at World Cup matches in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.

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