France, England, Germany and four other European teams abandoned plans to wear a rainbow-themed armband in support of LGBTQ rights at Monday’s World Cup, citing threats of disciplinary action from FIFA.
“FIFA has made it very clear that if our captains wear the armbands on the field, they will impose sporting sanctions,” the seven teams said in a joint statement.
Under FIFA rules, players wearing kit not approved by football’s world governing body could be shown a yellow card.
If that player was then shown a second yellow card, he would be sent off.
The armbands were widely seen as a symbolic protest against laws in World Cup host country Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
“As national federations we cannot put our players in a situation where they face sporting sanctions including warnings, so we have asked the captains not to try to wear the armbands at FIFA World Cup matches,” said the Associations of England, Wales said Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The relegation after threats from FIFA came hours before England’s Harry Kane, Dutchman Virgil van Dijk and Wales’ Gareth Bale were due to wear the armbands in Monday’s games. The captains of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had also agreed to wear the armbands in the coming days.
“Our top priority at the World Cup is to win the games,” said the Dutch Football Association in a separate statement. “Then you don’t want the captain to start the game with a yellow card.”
Monday’s decision shows the political situation surrounding the first World Cup in the Middle East – even after FIFA President Gianni Infantino called on all 32 national teams to keep politics off the pitch.
Since winning the rights to host the World Cup in 2010, Qatar has faced years of criticism over its treatment of low-paid migrant workers and its criminalization of gay and lesbian sex.
A tricky meeting
FIFA on Sunday raised the prospect of yellow cards during a sensitive meeting with European football’s governing bodies, including the seven teams that have pledged to wear the armband.
The One Love campaign was launched in the Netherlands and its symbol is a heart-shaped multicolored logo, aiming to promote inclusion and diversity in football and in society.
However, the European plans clearly flouted World Cup regulations and FIFA’s general rules on team kits at their matches.
“At FIFA finals, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA,” according to the Football Association’s Kit Regulations.
The armband dispute flared up two months ago when 10 European sides said they had joined the longer-running campaign in Dutch football, but it was still unresolved when the seven sides arrived in Qatar.
FIFA offered a compromise of its own on Monday, saying the captains of all 32 teams “will have the option” to wear an armband with the slogan “No Discrimination” in group matches.
FIFA’s original offer on Saturday was that ‘No Discrimination’ – the only slogan it chose that matched what European teams wanted – would only appear in the quarter-finals.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)