England fans dressed as Crusaders have been turned away from World Cup matches in Qatar as their costumes are deemed ‘offensive to Muslims’.
Two fancy-dress knights were allegedly seen on social media trying to get through security before England’s match with Iran on Monday while wearing chainmail and helmets bearing the St George’s Cross.
It is claimed that the pair, who were also carrying novelty swords, were escorted away by four officers at the security gate before kick-off.
And a similar experience could be in store for those attending tonight’s match against the USA, with the Times reporting Three Lions fans have been banned from dressing as the Christian invaders.
It comes as England fans, who have long supported the team bearing the garb of St George – the nation’s patron saint – at previous World Cups, find themselves in trouble for doing so this time around.
FIFA and anti-racism groups say dressing up as Crusaders in an Arab country such as Qatar could be seen as offensive given the historical context.
Some Doha residents appear to have been upset by the choice of outfit, given the religious wars between 1095 and 1291 were about taking land and holy sites under Islamic control.
England fans dressed as Crusaders with chainmail, shields and swords are stopped by security outside a stadium in Qatar
An England fan dressed as a Crusader kneels at a security check at the World Cup in Qatar
One of the crusaders spoke to TalkTV after England’s 6-2 win over Iran on Monday.
The man, who was not named, said: ‘The problem is in places like Qatar, the fans are the essence of the game. We are what makes the game.
‘It’s not the corporates, they help financially in the background, it’s us the fans that make the football and we are the football’.
He said that they were staying in the fan park paying £250-a-night.
FIFA said: ‘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.’
Kick It Out, the anti-racism campaign group in football said: ‘Certain attire, such as fancy-dress costumes representing knights or crusaders, may not be welcomed in Qatar.
Researcher Robert Carter tweeted: ‘The attire, complete with swords and crosses, is offensive due to crusader history of rape, slaughter and occupation of Arab lands.’
But some England fans in Qatar pointed out that a cheering Saudi Arabia fan was apparently allowed to wave a real three-foot long scimitar in jubilation among crowds outside the stadium after his team’s shock win over Argentina.
The best-known Crusades took place between 1096 and 1291 when Christian armies fought to seize Jerusalem and the surrounding area from Islamic rule.
Footage from Qatar before and after the England game showed the one group dressed up as knights singing God Save the King and storming up the stairs on public transport. Some locals appeared shocked by their choice of outfits – others asked them to pose for selfies.
Meanwhile, bars in Doha are demanding fans wearing traditional Arabic robes and headdress remove them over fears it offends locals and insults Islam.
The clothing has become popular among fans and is being widely sold in the team colours of the 32 nations playing at the tournament.
The latest incident follows days of mounting criticism for the Qatari police’s forceful handling of fans as the row over LGBT symbols rumbles on in the Gulf state.
Qatar officials have repeatedly stated ‘all are welcome’ at the World Cup, despite the fact same-sex relationships remain illegal in the country.
England and other teams planning to wear the ‘OneLove’ armbands to make a statement against discrimination during the World Cup in Qatar were also said to be ‘blackmailed’ with the looming threat of ‘massive sporting sanctions’.
Fans and journalists from multiple nations have reported rainbow-themed items, including t-shirts, bucket hats and flags, being confiscated by officials.
Despite FIFA’s insistence that ‘all are welcome’ in the Gulf state, fans, journalists and LGBT groups have all faced an authoritarian-style crackdown with rainbow attire confiscated at stadiums.
The sale of beer was also banned at stadiums in a stunning 11th-hour about turn by Qatari officials – leaving many fans fuming and FIFA red faced.
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani demanded all visitors ‘respect our culture’, with fans expected to fall in line with the Gulf state’s rules and cultural practices.