Qatari fans were spotted taking photos of Ivana Knoll, Miss Croatia, as she walked past them in the stadium for Croatia’s World Cup opening match with Morocco. The model, labelled the World Cup’s sexiest fan, walked past them in a red and white bikini top and tight red leggings, turning heads across the crowd in the ultra-conservative Muslim state, where moderate dress is the standard.
Ms Knoll is a model born in 1992 in Frankfurt, Germany, and at the age of only 7, she moved to Croatia, precisely to Zagreb, with her parents, both Croatian. In 2016 she participated in Miss Croatia World and became famous for having also practiced pole dancing and belly dancing.
Her Instagram profile now has more than one million followers, where the model posts regularly and is greatly appreciated for her undoubted beauty. She also gained a lot of popularity after wearing the Croatian colours at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
This time, however, she has had to deal with laws and customs that have led to reviewing the clothing of colleagues and ordinary people, victims of rather severe censorship on this issue and which have certainly not exempted the model from the risks she ran by wearing a tight checkered dress considered by the local police outside the permitted standards.
According to the current regulations in Qatar, violations of clothing can also be punished with a prison sentence as well as with very heavy fines.
But despite the very strict laws on decency in the country, some Qatari fans were caught smiling and taking pictures of the 30-year-old model.
The model reposted the snap to celebrate her one million followers on Instagram.
She wrote: “Thank you for your support!”
The snap went viral on social media, attracting the attention of Mohammed Hassan Al-Jefairi, a prominent Qatari entrepreneur, who claimed the men were taking the photo because they disapproved of Ms Knoll’s outfit and not as a gesture of appreciation.
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“I was super angry because if I’m not a Muslim and if we in Europe respect hijab and niqab, I think they need also to respect our way of life, our religion and in the end me wearing dresses, bikinis because I’m Catholic from Croatia who is here because of the World Cup.”
She added: “But when I arrived, I was surprised they were not making any problems about dressing, they allow you to wear everything what you want – except in government buildings, and in the end that’s fine.”
Asked whether she is afraid of being arrested, she replied: “I am never afraid of something like that.”
Fan groups circulated advice for newcomers, discouraging women from wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts. The government-run tourism website asks visitors to “show respect for local culture by avoiding excessively revealing clothing,” and recommends men and women cover their shoulders and knees.