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Virgin To Fly British Soccer Team to Qatar World Cup on Pride Plane

Virgin Atlantic's Gay Icon Oscar

The small rebellion is mostly symbolic.

The British press reports that England's soccer team will be flown to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar aboard Virgin Atlantic’s “Rain Bow” plane. The Airbus A350, has the name “Rain Bow” on the nose cone, along with the airline’s LGBTQ+ icon, 'Oscar,' who wears a pair ofrainbow-striped sneakers and pulls a British Union Jack flag along behind him.

Qatar has a notoriously shady past when it comes to human rights so activist have been angry that Fifa is allowing the Middle Eastern nation to play host to the 2022 soccer world championship. 

The country has had at best a mixed response to whether it will allow LGBTQ+ fans to attend the events without fear of reprisal. It has said it might confiscate rainbow flags to keep people safe and warned fans that while holding hands in the arena was OK, kissing was not. But then one Qatar administrator commended Australia's call for LGBTQ+ rights, while  a Qatar FIFA World Cup ambassador has issued a veiled threat against LGBTQ+ fans and said  homosexuality is “damage in the mind.” 

That's the kind of language that led Virgin to announce the use of the Rain Bow plane for the flight to Qatar.  “As a British flag carrier, we’re proud to fly the England Men’s Football team to the FIFA World Cup," the company noted in a statement to the press. “Rain Bow, which proudly displays our LGBTQ+ flying icon, will be flying the team to the tournament.”

The airline added, "At Virgin Atlantic we believe that everyone can take on the world."

According to the Independent, Virgin is not the only World Cup airline to use their flight as an opportunity to bring attention to Qatar's anti-gay laws and champion LGBTQ+ rights. 

Lufthansa is making its own statement by flying the German soccer team on its “diversity plane.” The Airbus A330, nicknamed “Fanhansa,” declares, “Diversity wins,” across its fuselage.

The Lufthansa jet also features a colourful mural of diverse people with their arms around each other, artwork designed in collaboration with German artist Peter Phobia.

An official statement from the airline noted, “Lufthansa is a byword for openness, tolerance, diversity and bringing people together."

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