Who is Mario Ferri? The serial pitch invader who waved rainbow flag and sent Iran and Ukraine messages at 2022 World Cup in Qatar
The World Cup in Qatar has been no stranger to controversy and political statements. Whether it be the continuous push for LGBTQ+ inclusion or the Qatari wish for worldwide fans to respect the Gulf state's culture, the tournament has provided a platform for people and groups to get their messages across.
During Uruguay's defeat to Portugal, one man took it upon himself to make another highly public statement, entering the field of play wearing a shirt that bore two messages: 'Save Ukraine' and 'respect Iranian women.'
Who is Mario Ferri?
The 35-year-old Italian has appeared on football pitches before, legally. He's been a footballer for the last nine years, most recently contracted to Indian second division side United Sports Club. He has now returned to his home town of Pescara after the league was stopped in March due to a Covid outbreak.
However, it's the activist's on-field protestations that has gained him more notoriety than his exploits as a footballer. Monday's stunt is not the first time Ferri has pitch invaded in order to get a point across, far from it in fact.
When has Ferri invaded the pitch before?
Italy v Netherlands - 2009
The first time he ran onto a pitch was back in 2009, though it was anything but political. He took to the field in a game between Italy and the Netherlands, pleading for then-Azzurri manager Marcello Lippi to take Antonio Cassano to the following year's World Cup in South Africa. It fell on deaf ears and when the Italians exited the tournament early he had a message for Lippi, simply saying: "I told you so."
Inter Milan v Mazembe - 2010
This was the first of his politically motivated protests. During the 2010 Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi, Ferri took to the field with a message saying 'Free Sakineh'. That was in reference to Iranian citizen Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who spent nine years on death row before being released in 2014.
Belgium v USA - 2014
During the World Cup in Brazil, Ferri made the trip again and, during the round of 16 fixture between Belgium and the USA, once again entered the field with a message pleading for those in power to save the children of the host country's favelas.
Support for Ukraine
Away from the pitch and football as a whole, Ferri has been a driving force when it comes to helping Ukraine in the ongoing conflict with Russia. He took it upon himself to travel from his home town in eastern Italy to Ukraine to assist citizens in escaping the now war-torn country.
He rented a car to help evacuate people form Lviv, taking them to Poland. He helped 60 people in the process, as he announced on his Instagram.
What happened to Ferri after Qatar incident?
Ferri is seemingly never far away from controversy, with his stunt during the 2022 World Cup being the latest of many.
Thankfully, Ferri has already been released from custody although he'll be unable to attend any further games at the tournament.
It's doubtful he'll want to. He's already got his message across and the world talking.