World Cup captains take off One Love armbands after threats of FIFA sanctions
“We were prepared to pay the fines that would normally be applied to infringements of the jersey regulations and we made a firm commitment to wear the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they could receive a yellow card or even be forced to leave the field of play,” said the joint statement of the football associations. Three teams – England, Wales and the Netherlands – were due to play on Monday.
“We are very frustrated by FIFA’s decision, which we believe is unprecedented,” the teams added, pledging to show support for “inclusion” in other ways. “As national associations, we cannot put our players in a position where they can face sporting sanctions, including bookings.”
Qatar has come under scrutiny ahead of the tournament for its approach to human rights, including concerns over the conditions of migrant workers and the conservative Gulf state’s stance on LGBTQ people. Sex between men is illegal in Qatar and punishable by up to seven years in prison, according to a recent US State Department statement report.
The OneLove campaign was originally conceived by the Dutch national football team, and the first 10 European teams signed up for it in September. They agreed that their captains would wear a rainbow armband to send a message against discrimination and promote inclusion.
The Dutch were the first to publicly announce that captain Virgil van Dijk would not wear the armband. “Hours before the first game, we were (officially) informed by FIFA that the captain will receive a yellow card if he wears the ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband,” the KNVB, the national football association, said in a statement. . “We deeply regret that it was not possible to reach a reasonable solution together.
“We stand by the ‘OneLove’ message and will continue to spread it, but our No. 1 priority at the World Cup is winning games. You don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card. That is why, with a heavy heart, we as a working group of UEFA, KNVB and as a team had to decide to abandon our plan.”
Penalizing team captains before kick-off would impose a competitive disadvantage from the outset, with a second yellow card during the match leading to sending off.
Although the basis of any possible FIFA sanctions against players has not been disclosed, according to Article 4.3 of the FIFA Equipment Regulations, no clothing or equipment may be worn if it is considered “dangerous, offensive or indecent” or involves “political, religious or personal passwords.”
“As captains, we may all compete against each other on the field, but together we fight against all forms of discrimination,” England captain Harry Kane said in September. “Carrying the ribbon together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching.”
FIFA has rejected the OneLove campaign and, according to the national football teams, has threatened to sanction players who wear the armband. Instead, FIFA proposed that national captains wear armbands from its separate “No Discrimination” campaign, which it planned to launch in the quarter-finals.
In a separate announcement on Mondaysoccer’s global body said it had launched its anti-discrimination campaign to allow all 32 national captains to wear the armband throughout the tournament.
“FIFA is an inclusive organization that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but this must be done within the framework of the rules of the competition that are known to everyone,” the body said in a statement.
The Football Association of Wales expressed its frustration and disappointment in a statement, but added: “We remain committed to the belief that football is for everyone and we stand with our LGBTQ+ members of the Welsh football family. Football for everyone.”
The Football Supporters’ Association, a group representing England and Wales fans, said in a statement that LGBTQ fans felt angry and betrayed by FIFA’s decision.
“Today we feel contempt for an organization that showed its true values by giving yellow cards to players and red cards for tolerance,” the group said.
In an interview with BBC Radio, former England captain Alan Shearer said that although the timing of the decision was unfair to the players, he would still wear the armband.
“It would be a bigger issue and a bigger problem for FIFA than not wearing it, and I would do that if I could,” Shearer said.
And while the OneLove strip wasn’t worn on the pitch, it was worn on the sidelines during the England-Iran game: Alex Scott, an English sports pundit who previously played for the England women’s team, wore the strip on Monday.
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