England‘s World Cup squad have touched down on the tarmac in Qatar, having arrived in a Virgin Atlantic aircraft emblazoned with Gay Pride logo in staunch defiance of the host nation’s attitudes towards homosexuality.
A host of England players including star striker Harry Kane were pictured stepping out of the jet around 8.30pm local time in Qatar (5.30 GMT) and filing into a bus which whisked them to the terminal and on to their accommodation ahead of the start of their World Cup campaign against Iran next Monday.
The squad went on to complete light training session on Tuesday evening, before serious preparations get underway at their Al Wakrah training facility on Wednesday ahead of next Monday’s tournament opener.
They were met with cheers from a horde of fans who were waiting outside the training facility, waving flags and delivering messages of support.
England arrived in Doha on a Gay Pride jet – a ‘Rain Bow’ Virgin Atlantic A350 Airbus – despite Qatar’s policies where it is illegal to be gay – in a show of support for LGBTQ+ people living in the Gulf state.
The jet features a picture of Oscar, a cartoon man holding a Union flag while wearing a small set rainbow-coloured trainers, beneath the cabin. And it sports the registration number ‘GV -PRD’ – in a nod to the Gay Pride.
But, as in so many World Cup penalty shootouts before, the Three Lions have once again been trumped by Germans in their show of support.
The Germans have gone one further, with airliner Lufthansa emblazoning the side of the squad’s World Cup jet with a huge ‘Diversity Wins’ motif.
Elsewhere, the Welsh national team was photographed disembarking a plane tonight as they arrived at the Hamad International Airport in Doha.
Wales players disembark a plane as they arrive at the Hamad International Airport in Doha today
James Maddison of England is greeted as players of England arrive in Qatar
James Maddison, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount of England are greeted tonight as England players arrive in Qatar ahead of World Cup 2022
England’s squad landed in Qatar on Tuesday evening as their preparations for the 2022 Qatar World Cup ramp up
England manager Gareth Southgate arrives in Doha after England’s flight touched down
England begin their World Cup campaign against Iran on Monday, before further group fixtures against the USA and Wales
Ben White and Jude Bellingham of England sit in the bus after disembarking during the arrival of Team England ahead of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Hamad International Airport Special Events Terminal on November 15, 2022 in Doha, Qatar
England captain Harry Kane exiting their plane after landing in Qatar – he is just three goals away from being the nation’s all-time record goalscorer
The England squad was met with cheers from a horde of fans who were waiting outside the training facility, waving flags and delivering messages of support
Fans lined the streets as the team bus pulled up outside the Al Wakrah hotel and training facility
Fans await the arrival of the England team at their hotel in Al Wakrah, Qatar
England fans outside the England team hotel ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar
The aircraft features a picture of Oscar, a cartoon man holding a Union Jack flag while wearing rainbow-coloured trainers, beneath the cabin
England’s travelled to Qatar on a plane called the ‘Rain Bow’, pictured at Birmingham Airport on Tuesday ahead of their flight
England manager Gareth Southgate boards the team jet to Qatar ahead of his side’s World Cup campaign, which stars on Monday against Iran
The German team are pictured boarding their special diversity jet as they fly out to Qatar to take part in the World Cup
Like in many World Cups prior, England have found themselves trumped by the Germans, who are flying to the Middle Eastern nation on board a Lufthansa plane with a huge ‘Diversity Wins’ logo emblazoned on the side
Manchester City pair Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker step off the plane as they arrive in Doha, with the latter recovering from injury in time to make the final 26-man squad
England’s squad looked in a relaxed mood as they arrived at around 8.30PM local time (5.30PM GMT)
Southgate is heading into his third tournament as England boss since he took over from Sam Allardyce back in 2016
FA chiefs proposed the idea of the Gay Pride plane to highlight concerns over gay rights in Qatar, where same-sex relationships remain a criminal offence and whose World Cup Ambassador last week said homosexuality is ‘damage in the mind’.
Anyone found participating in same-sex sexual activity in Qatar can be punished by up to seven years in prison, while there are also concerns about thousands of migrant workers having died in Qatar since it won the rights to host the World Cup.
England and Germany are just two of a handful of nations taking part in the World Cup seeking to rebel against Qatar’s strict homophobic laws, amid widespread criticism of this year’s tournament hosts.
England boss Gareth Southgate vowed his team – led by Harry Kane – would continue to make a stand as he declared: ‘We’re very strong on inclusivity.’
The German airline meanwhile said in a statement that Lufthansa was a ‘byword for openness, tolerance, diversity and bringing people together’ and that the company welcomed everyone onboard ‘regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, religion, nationality, identity or sexual orientation’.
Before leaving for Qatar this morning, the England team heard a rousing speech from Prince William and received encouragement from a large group of young fans as they departed St George’s Park.
Addressing the players, Prince William said: ‘What you and Gareth have built here is something special, that’s clear to see.
‘Play for each other, support each other, enjoy it, and I’m sure you’ll go far.’
‘I’m really here to point out the rest of the country is behind you, we’re all rooting for you. Enjoy it.’
England players pictured at Birmingham Airport on Tuesday morning as they board their flight to Qatar and the World Cup
England’s Virgin Atlantic jet takes off at Birmingham Airport as the players and staff make their way to Qatar
The England team left St George’s Park on Tuesday morning bound for the World Cup in Qatar after a send-off by young fans
Prince Williams offered words of encouragement to Harry Kane (right) and the England players as they departed for Qatar
England captain Harry Kane spoke before the squad departed for their flight to Qatar on Tuesday morning
A group of young England fans were waiting to give the Three Lions an emotional send-off outside St George’s Park
The Prince of Wales chats to Manchester City star Jack Grealish during the pre-World Cup departure royal visit on Monday
Speaking before they departed for Qatar this morning, England captain Harry Kane said: ‘I’m excited. The World Cup is a special occasion. Obviously we’re flying out today. So I’m really excited.
‘For most professional players, its the biggest tournament you can play in. I’ve been lucky enough to do one and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. And I can’t wait to get out this weather and get some sun!’
After the players boarded the two coaches, they set off for the airport as the eager fans waved their flags and chanted ‘England! England! England!’.
Newcastle striker Callum Wilson also spoke before leaving and reflected on his inclusion in the World Cup squad.
He said: ‘Over the moon. You work hard as a football player to try and get opportunities like this and it’s one that you grasp with both hands.
‘Life’s all about timing. I’ve had three years away. The pinnacle of my career was scoring on my debut for England. It’s a moment I want to add to. Going to a World Cup, there’s great opportunities to go and make history.’
England open their campaign against Iran on Monday before further group stage matches against the United States on November 25 and Wales on November 29.
Kalvin Phillips boards the team coach at St George’s Park ahead of their trip to the World Cup, cheered on by flag-waving fans
England defender Harry Maguire (left) shared an Instagram snap from the plane alongside goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, while John Stones was seated next to Manchester City team-mate Kyle Walker on the flight (right)
Chelsea star Mason Mount climbs the steps to England’s Virgin Atlantic flight to the Middle-East ahead of the World Cup
Declan Rice, the England midfielder, looked in a happy mood as he headed off to the World Cup with his team-mates
Gareth Bale applauds the supporters during the Wales Training Session before they leave for the World Cup in Qatar at the Cardiff City Stadium on November 15, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales
(L-R) Chris Mepham, Harry Wilson and Brennan Johnson during the Wales Training Session before they leave for the World Cup in Qatar at the Cardiff City Stadium on November 15, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales
A general view as the Airbus A350-900 Qatar Airways Team Plane for Wales taxis through a Water Salute on the runway prior to take off as players and management of Wales depart for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on November 15, 2022
Wales players disembark the plane as they arrive at the Hamad International Airport in Doha on November 16, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament
Gareth Bale, second right, of the Wales’ national soccer team arrives with teammates at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, ahead of the upcoming World Cup. Wales will play their first match in the World Cup against the United States on Nov. 21
FIFA has urged countries to focus on football during the competition, but Southgate has said it is ‘highly unlikely’ that England will do so.
He said: ‘We’re very strong on inclusivity. We understand the challenges that this tournament brings . . . the human rights challenges.
‘We’ve always spoken about issues we think should be talked about, particularly ones we feel we can affect.’
In an emotionally-charged speech on the eve of their World Cup departure, Southgate urged his players to write their own history.
The Three Lions boss addressed his players and staff, urging them to seize the opportunity to win the country’s first World Cup since 1966.
Despite a poor UEFA Nations League campaign this year, England head to Qatar as one of the tournament favourites having reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and also the final of last year’s European Championship.
And Southgate genuinely believes England have a chance of winning the World Cup for the second time and urged the current crop to become the best in history.
Wales’ World Cup squad was also pictured leaving the country today to head to Qatar following a morning training session.
Gareth Bale was snapped applauding onlookers at the training session in Cardiff before the team was whisked to the airport in Vale of Glamorgan.