On the eve of Morocco’s highly anticipated match against Germany, a press conference took an unexpected turn when the captain of the Moroccan female football team, Ghizlane Chebbak, was confronted with a provocative and contentious question pertaining to the players’ sexuality.
The controversy, which centered on claims that there were homosexual players on the national team, has since sparked a heated discussion regarding the politicization of football, Western media’s “obsession” with sexuality and the obligations of sports journalists in terms of ethics.
The incident happened on Sunday 23 when journalists gathered to cover the upcoming match between Germany and Morocco.
The name of the BBC reporter who asked the contentious question is unknown, but its influence on social media and the journalistic industry has been felt globally.
Addressing Chebbak directly, the reporter asked, “In Morocco, it’s illegal to have a gay relationship. Do you have any gay players on the squad, and what’s life like for them in Morocco?”
Vor dem Spiel gegen Deutschland wurde Marokkos Kapitänin Ghizlane Chebbak gefragt, ob es homosexuelle Spielerinnen im Team gibt und wie es ihnen in ergeht – homosexuelle Handlungen sind in Marokko illegal. Eine FIFA-Sprecherin wies die Frage als “politisch” ab.#FIFAWWC #GERMAR pic.twitter.com/olvc9j1Q6b
— Deutschlandfunk Sport (@DLF_Sport) July 24, 2023
The captain’s expression was one of dismay and disapproval, turned into a sarcastic grin as the question delved into sensitive and personal matters that stretched beyond the realm of football.
Sitting alongside Chebbak, a FIFA moderator swiftly intervened, denouncing the question as “overly political” and urging journalists to stick to inquiries related to the sport.
Despite the moderator’s intervention, the reporter replied saying that the question was actually not too political.
Moroccans and international reporters alike swiftly criticized the line of questioning as unethical and intrusive.
Outraged reactions flooded social media, condemning the journalist’s attempt to interject politics into a sporting event. Even the Moroccan journalists present at the press conference appeared taken aback by the audacity of the question, as per several media reports.
As the storm of controversy continued to brew, journalist Steph Yang, who works for The Athletics, took to Twitter to voice his concerns about the matter.
He asserted that such questions put players in a vulnerable position and could jeopardize their well-being. “From a harm reduction perspective, this is not an appropriate question for a player and would have endangered the players themselves,” Yang expressed.
He further emphasized the importance of discussing the intersection of politics and sports during events like the World Cup but cautioned against posing questions that could inflict additional harm on those affected by political issues.
Another journalist, Shireen Ahmad, who witnessed the incident firsthand, condemned the reporter’s behavior as completely out of line.
Ahmad emphasized the significance of harm reduction and argued that such questions were unnecessary and uncalled for during a sports press conference.
While a FIFA media officer did intervene to dismiss the question, Ahmad asserted that it should never have been asked in the first place.
A Moroccan lawyer active on Twitter under the username @ibnkafka, said “How many of the other 31 teams got that question from the @BBCWorld? Seriously, this strikes me as an Orientalist angle, with Arab/Berber/Muslim/North women being sexualized and portrayed as in need of white saviors. How about asking the @USWNT how many players had an abortion?”