World Cup captains drop one love armbands after threat of FIFA sanctions


Soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced Monday their captains will not wear LGBTQ armbands in Qatar after FIFA, which organizes the tournament, said players wearing the bands would be sanctioned.

The captains of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland had intended to wear the OneLove rainbow bracelets to promote diversity and inclusion at the World Cup.

“We were willing to pay fines that would normally be imposed for gear violations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they are cautioned or even forced to leave the pitch,” the football associations said in a joint statement. Three of the teams – England, Wales and the Netherlands – were due to play on Monday.

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“We are very frustrated by FIFA’s decision, which we believe is unprecedented,” the teams added, promising to show their support for “inclusion” in other ways. “As national federations, we cannot put our players in a situation where they have to face sporting sanctions, including warnings.”

Qatar came under scrutiny ahead of the tournament for its human rights approach, including concerns over the conditions of migrant workers and the conservative Persian Gulf state’s stance on LGBTQ people. According to a recent report by the US State Department, sex between men in Qatar is illegal and carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

The OneLove campaign was originally conceived by the Dutch football team and initially 10 European teams signed up for it in September. They agreed their captains would wear a rainbow armband to send a message against discrimination and to promote inclusion.

The Dutch were the first to publicly announce that captain Virgil van Dijk will not wear the armband. “Hours before the first game, it was made clear to us (officially) by FIFA that if the captain wears the ‘OneLove’ armband, he will receive a yellow card,” the KNVB, the country’s football governing body, said in a statement. “We deeply regret that it was not possible to find a reasonable solution together.

“We stand by and will continue to spread the ‘OneLove’ message, but our number one priority at the World Cup is to win the games. You don’t want the captain to start the game with a yellow card. That’s why it was with a heavy heart that we as the UEFA working group, KNVB and as a team had to decide to give up our plan.”

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Punishing team captains before the start of a game would put them at a competitive disadvantage from the outset, as a second yellow card during a game would mean disqualification.

While the basis of possible FIFA sanctions against players has not been made public, according to Article 4.3 of the FIFA Kit Regulations, no clothing or kit that is deemed “dangerous, offensive or indecent” or that contains “political content”, religious or personal slogans may be worn. “

“As captains we may all compete on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination,” said England captain Harry Kane in September. “Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message as the world watches.”

FIFA rejected the OneLove campaign and threatened sanctions against players wearing the armband, according to the national soccer teams. Instead, FIFA has suggested that national captains wear armbands from their separate “No Discrimination” campaign that they had planned for the quarter-finals.

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In a separate statement on Monday, the global football body said it had brought forward the start of its no-discrimination campaign to allow all 32 national captains to wear the armband throughout the tournament.

“FIFA is an inclusive organization that seeks to use football for the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but this must be done within the framework of well-known competition rules,” the body said in a statement.

The Football Association of Wales expressed frustration and disappointment in a statement, but added: “We remain committed to the belief that football is for everyone and stand by our LGBTQ+ members of the Welsh football family.

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