Teams ditch pro-LGBTQ armbands after FIFA threats

Detailed image of the ONE-LOVE captain’s armband worn by Georginio Wijnaldum of the Netherlands during the UEFA Euro 2020 in Budapest, Hungary.

Alex Livesey – UEFA | UEFA | Getty Images

European teams competing in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar have abandoned their plans to wear OneLove armbands in support of LGBTQ rights during the tournament, they announced on Monday following warnings from international football governing body FIFA that they would be penalized for this is.

Team captains from seven European countries participating in the World Cup – England, Wales, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands – have announced rainbow armbands to signal support for diversity and inclusion.

Hours before kick-off, FIFA took the unprecedented step of warning that it would issue a yellow card to any player with an armband. Two yellow cards in the game mean the removal of the player from the field.

“FIFA has made it clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear armbands on the pitch,” the countries’ football associations said in a joint statement. “As national federations, we cannot put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including warnings, which is why we have asked captains not to attempt to wear armbands in World Cup games.”

“We were prepared to pay the fines that are normally applied for equipment violations and were firmly committed to wearing the headband,” the statement said. “However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they can be warned or even forced to leave the field.” Teams from England, Wales and the Netherlands were due to play on Monday.

“We are very disappointed with FIFA’s decision, which we believe is unprecedented,” the teams said in a joint statement, in which they promised to express their support for the inclusion of other funds.

Qatari fans before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, November 18, 2022.

Marko Djurica | Reuters

The hosting of the World Cup by Qatar, a tiny and religiously conservative gas-rich sheikh in the Persian Gulf, has been controversial from the start when it first won this year’s bid in 2010.

In addition to the lack of sufficient infrastructure and capacity to host such a tournament at the time, critics sounded the alarm about the country’s human rights record, including that of migrant workers and the LGBTQ community. Homosexuality is a crime in Qatar, as it is in much of the rest of the Muslim world, and men caught having sex with each other can face several years in prison or even the death penalty.

FIFA, which has come out in defense of Qatar on these issues, rejected the “OneLove” campaign and instead promoted its own “No Discrimination” campaign, which uses different armbands.

“FIFA is an inclusive organization that wants to bring football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but this must be done within the rules of the competition, which are known to all,” FIFA said in a statement on Monday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (second from right) and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar.

Amin Mohammad Jamali | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images

“FIFA can confirm that its anti-discrimination campaign has been rescheduled from its scheduled quarter-final stage to allow all 32 captains to be able to wear this armband during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.”

He added that the president of the organization, Gianni Infantino, supported the LGBT community.

“Fifa President Gianni Infantino reaffirmed his support for the LGBTQI+ community during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar,” the statement said.

He then quoted Infantino as saying: “I spoke on this subject with the top leadership of the country. They have confirmed and I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If someone says otherwise, well, that’s not the opinion of the country, and definitely not the opinion of FIFA.”

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