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No, German plane not barred from Qatar for sporting rainbow flag in support of LGBTQI rights

IN SHORT: Was Germany’s national football team barred from entering Qatar for the Fifa World Cup, because the plane they were travelling on was emblazoned with the rainbow flag, in support of gay rights? No, this isn’t the full story.

A Facebook post posted in South Africa claims that a plane carrying the German national football team was not allowed to land in Qatar “because it had the rainbow flag painted on it”.

Qatar is hosting the 2022 Fifa World Cup, the first Muslim country to do so. But the country’s hosting of football’s most prestigious tournament has been under a microscope. It has, among other issues, been harshly criticised for its criminalisation of homosexuality.    

The November 2022 post was published by the Facebook page Hope For Africa, which has more than 390,000 followers.

The post goes on to say that the “plane had to be diverted” and landed in neighbouring Oman instead, where apparently the German team changed planes to fly back to Qatar.

Other versions of the same claim mention the plane having “LGBTQ graphics" or "the gay logo" and all use similar photos of a plane. 

The rainbow flag is a universal symbol of the LGBTQI community and represents diversity. LGBTQI stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex.

One of the photos shows a group of black-clad men disembarking, flying the German flag and flags with the Lufthansa logo. The airline Lufthansa is the German flag carrier. On the side of the plane is written “Fanhansa” and “Diversity Wins”. 

While there appear to be rainbow-coloured seats inside the plane, none of the photos of the outside of the plane show the rainbow flag. 

But was this plane turned back when the German national football team flew to Qatar for the 2022 world cup?


Photo from Oman shortly before world cup started

The World Cup started on 20 November, with the hosts playing Ecuador. 

But a week before kickoff on 14 November, the German team flew to Oman for a warm-up game, as the desert country has similar weather conditions to Qatar.

The game was played at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex

Lufthansa flew the team to Oman, in an Airbus A330 plane renamed "Fanhansa", featuring the phrase “Diversity Wins”. This is the plane in the photos circulating on social media and they were taken on 14 November, days before the World Cup began. 

The caption for one of the photos, published by Getty Images and taken by Christian Kaspar-Bartke, reads: “Germany's national team pose for a photo prior to departure for the Pre World Cup Training camp in Oman at Frankfurt International Airport on November 14, 2022 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.”

One of the Facebook posts includes a link to a YouTube video uploaded on 17 November, which shows the German team disembarking in Qatar, clearly from a different plane. A closer look shows it is an Oman Air plane.

France24 fact-checked the same claim and explained why the German team used Oman Air to travel to Qatar, and not Lufthansa: Lufthansa had no commercial flights scheduled to Qatar, so this would mean flying back with a completely empty plane.”

Germany lost their first match to Japan on 23 November. The controversy over the team’s support for LGBTQI rights has rumbled on, with German players covering their mouths in protest before their first match.

Germany is one of the most prominent football teams at the World Cup and had a Lufthansa plane been denied landing in Qatar it would have been covered extensively by the international media. But we found no such reportage. The claim is false.

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