Man who invaded pitch with rainbow flag banned from World Cup matches

The protester identified himself on social media as Mario Ferri, an Italian who has carried out similar stunts at football games before.

Mario Ferri on the pitch during the Portugal v Uruguay match
Mario Ferri on the pitch during the Portugal v Uruguay match

The protester who ran on to the pitch during a World Cup match, carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a blue Superman T-shirt with messages in support of Ukraine and Iranian women, has been banned from attending any more matches during the football tournament in Qatar.

The World Cup organising committee said in a statement that “the individual involved was released shortly after being removed from the pitch” and that his embassy has been informed.

“As a consequence of his actions, and as is standard practice, his (entry permit) has been cancelled 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 carried out similar stunts at football matches before.

Italian Mario Ferri has carried out similar stunts before (Abbie Parr)

Ferri ran on to the field in the second half of Monday’s match between Portugal and Uruguay, carrying a rainbow flag. Security officials chased him and he dropped the flag on the field before being escorted away.

“I’ll call it ‘THE LAST DANCE,’ my last field invasion, I wanted to send IMPORTANT messages, which I’ve felt experienced first hand in recent months,” Ferri wrote in an Instagram post.

He said he has friends in Ukraine who are suffering and that he spent a month in the country as a volunteer after Russia invaded the nation in February.

In the days ahead of the opening games, the captains of seven European teams were prohibited from wearing multi-coloured “One Love” armbands during World Cup matches in support of LGBTQ rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.

Some fans also complained that they were not allowed to take items with rainbow colours into stadiums.

Ferri said that prompted him to protest.

“FIFA banned the captains’ rainbow armbands and the flags for human rights in the stands, they banned everyone, BUT NOT ME,” he wrote, adding “like a Robinhood 2.0, I brought the message to the PEOPLE. We want a free world that respects all races and ideas.”

Mario Ferri said police held him for about an hour after the incident (Petr David Josek/AP)

Ferri said police held 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 penalties, except a ban from watching any more World Cup matches.

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

Ferri has interrupted several matches before.

He said Infantino recognised him from when he ran on to the field at World Cup matches in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.

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