The protestor who ran onto the pitch during the Portugal v Uruguay World Cup match in Qatar is a footballer-turned-globetrotting campaigner, it has been revealed.
Mario Ferri wore a blue superman t-shirt with the words ‘Save Ukraine’ written on the front as he stormed onto the pitch in the second half of the group stage match on Monday night.
The t-shirt also had ‘respect for Iranian woman [sic]’ written on the back in reference to the anti-regime protests in Iran in recent months.
Ferri, known as ‘The Falcon’ is an Italian footballer with second-division Indian side United Sports Club who has been working in Ukraine to drive refugees to safety in Poland.
He has invaded pitches several times before wearing his signature superman shirt in Italy and South America to raise awareness for issues including to ‘save favela children’.
Campaigner Mario Ferri, stormed onto the pitch in the second half of the game waving the Pride flag
The footballer has posted photos of himself preparing for the Ukraine frontline where he has been driving refugees to Poland
The protestor stands on a tank in Ukraine where he has been working in humanitarian aid this year
Mario Ferri, known as ‘The Falcon’, is an Italian footballer and humanitarian worker in Ukraine
Ferri was tackled to the ground by security during the pro-LGBT rights protest in Qatar
Footballer and activist Ferri had ‘respect for Iranian woman’ written on the back of his superman t-shirt
Ferri has posted on his social media showing his work in Ukraine driving refugees to Poland
The campaigner was even placed under house arrest in Italy for a string of pitch invasions and has form in World Cup pitch invasions, storming onto the pitch at the 2014 tournament in Brazil with his ‘favelas’ t-shirt.
Ferri said earlier this year he felt the need to act when Putin invaded Ukraine, and has driven scores of refugees over the border to Poland off his own back.
He told CBS Sport: ‘I do it on my own. I pay for everything and I want nothing back. I almost had a fight the other day because I saw a man asking money for doing what I do. It’s unacceptable, people are desperate here and there are few that want to make a business out of it.
‘I go to Lviv, look for people that need help and I drive for five, 10, 15 hours. Lviv is like a harbor for Ukrainians who want to leave the country.
‘Outside the country [in Poland especially] is full of people that are helping, but inside Ukraine many are worried that something can happen to them.’
The influencer has shared his work in Ukraine on his social media, alongside photos of his footballing career and a video of him handing out money in a nightclub.
After running around the pitch for a few minutes, the demonstrator was led away by security
He was bundled away by security after storming onto the pitch during the match between Portugal and Uruguay
‘The Falcon’ has a history of pitch invasions to campaign for his chosen causes. Pictured: Ferri on the pitch in a match between Belgium and the USA in Brazil in 2014
Ferri also invaded a match between Juventus and Napoli in 2017, where he threw a scarf at striker Gonzalo Higuaín (left)
Ferri was chased by security across the field as he held the Pride flag above his head at the Portugal v Uruguay match in Lusail, Qatar before he was eventually grabbed and led away.
The match referee picked up the Pride flag after it was dropped on the turf as the man was bundled off to allow the game to continue after a few minutes of interruption.
Some fans cheered support for the protestor as he ran across the field before being dragged off.
Being gay is illegal in Qatar with a jail sentence of up to seven years, leading to huge controversy around the tournament.
Many players and pundits, including the Wales and Germany teams, have been embroiled in an argument with FIFA over their right to wear One Love armbands during their matches.
FIFA bosses threatened ‘unlimited’ disciplinary action and yellow cards if players wore the armband in support of highly controversial hosts Qatar.
Fans have also been stopped from wearing rainbow bucket hats and carrying rainbow flags in stadiums.
Ferri dropped the Pride flag on the middle of the pitch as he was chased by security, forcing play to stop
Match referee Alireza Faghani, an Iranian, picks up the rainbow flag as the man is led away. Play was restarted shortly after