World Cup captains drop One Love armbands after threat of FIFA sanctions

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

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

“We were prepared to pay the fines that would normally apply to infractions of the kit rules and we had a firm commitment to wear the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they can be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” the football associations said in a joint statement. Three of the teams – England, Wales and the Netherlands – were scheduled to play on Monday.

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

Qatar has come under scrutiny in the run-up to the tournament for its approach to human rights, including concerns over conditions for migrant workers and the Persian Gulf state’s conservative stance on LGBTQ people. Sex between men is prohibited in Qatar and is punishable by up to seven years in prison, according to a recent report from the US State Department. report.

The OneLove campaign was originally conceived by the Dutch soccer team, and initially 10 European teams signed up in September. They agreed that their captains would wear a rainbow bracelet 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 match, FIFA has made it clear to us (officially) that the captain will receive a yellow card if he wears the ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband,” the KNVB, the country’s football association, said in a statement. . “We deeply regret that it was not possible to reach a reasonable solution together.

“We stand up for the ‘OneLove’ message and will continue to spread it, but our number one priority at the World Cup is to win the matches. You don’t want the captain to start the game with a yellow card. Therefore, with a heavy heart, we, as a working group of UEFA, KNVB and as a team, had to decide to abandon our plan.”

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Penalizing team captains before games start would impose a competitive disadvantage early on, with a second yellow card during a match leading to sending off.

Although the basis for potential FIFA sanctions against players has not been made public, according to article 4.3 of the FIFA Equipment Regulations, items of clothing or equipment may not be worn if they are considered “dangerous, offensive or indecent” or include “political activities”. , religious or personal slogans.”

“As captains, we may all be competing against each other on the field, but we stand united against all forms of discrimination.” England captain Harry Kane said in September. “Wearing the bracelet 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 national soccer teams, has threatened to penalize players who wear the armband. Instead, FIFA has proposed that national captains wear armbands from its separate “No Discrimination” campaign that it had planned to start with the quarter-finals.

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In a separate statement MondayThe world soccer organization said it had brought forward the start of 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 it has to do so within the framework of the competition rules that everyone knows,” the body said in a statement.

The Football Association of Wales expressed its frustration and disappointment in a statement, but added: “We continue to believe that football is for everyone and we support our LGBTQ+ members of the Welsh football family. Soccer for all”.

The Football Fans Association, a group representing fans in England and Wales, said in a statement that LGBTQ fans felt angry and betrayed by FIFA’s decision.

“Today we feel contempt for an organization that has shown its true values ​​by giving players a yellow card and tolerance a red card,” the group said.

In an interview with BBC Radio, former England captain Alan Shearer said that while the timing of the decision was “not fair” to the players, he would have worn the armband anyway.

“That would raise a bigger question and a bigger problem for FIFA than not using it, and that’s what I would do if I could,” Shearer said.

And while the OneLove armband was not 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 armband on Monday.

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