World Cup captains drop One Love armbands after FIFA sanctions threat

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The 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 hosts the tournament, said players wearing the bands would be penalized.

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

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of equipment regulations and we had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they could be cautioned or even forced to leave the pitch,” the football federations 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 disappointed by FIFA’s decision, which we believe is unprecedented,” the teams added, vowing to show support for “inclusion” in other ways. “As national federations, we cannot put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including cautions.”

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 Persian Gulf state’s stance on LGBTQ people. Sex between men is banned in Qatar and punishable by up to seven years in prison, according to a recent US State Department report.

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Grant Wahl, an American soccer writer, said he was stopped by a security guard at the United States’ game against Wales on Monday for wearing a shirt with a rainbow on it.

Wahl later said he was detained for half an hour in an “unnecessary hassle” but eventually allowed into the stadium. “Go gay,” he wrote on Twitter with a rainbow emoji.

Peter Bossaert, chief executive of the Belgian Football Association, told local media on Monday that FIFA had been forced to remove the word “love” from its away kit, even though it was subject to the inside the shirt.

“The word LOVE must disappear,” Bossaert told Belgian reporters on Monday.

“It’s sad,” he said. “But FIFA leaves us no choice.”

The OneLove campaign was originally conceived by the Dutch football team, and 10 European teams initially signed up 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 be wearing the armband. “Hours before the first match, FIFA has (officially) made it clear to us 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.

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“We stand by the ‘OneLove’ message and will continue to spread it, but our No. 1 priority at the World Cup is to win games. You don’t want the captain to start the game with a yellow card. So, with a heavy heart, as the UEFA working group, KNVB and as a team we had to decide to abandon our plan.”

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Penalizing team captains before matches start would impose a competitive disadvantage from the outset, with a second yellow card during a match leading to expulsion.

While the basis of FIFA’s potential sanctions against players has not been made public, under Article 4.3 of FIFA’s kit regulations, items of clothing or equipment may not be worn if consider “dangerous, offensive or indecent” or include “politics”. , religious or personal slogans”.

FIFA has proposed that national captains wear armbands from its independent “No Discrimination” campaign which it planned to start with the quarter-finals.

In a separate statement on Monday, soccer’s world 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.

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“FIFA is an inclusive organization that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but it must be done within the framework of competition regulations that are known to everyone,” the statement said.

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

The Football Supporters’ 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 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 while the timing of the decision “wasn’t 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 bringing him, and that’s what I would do, if I could,” Shearer said.

And while the OneLove armband wasn’t worn on the pitch, it was worn on the sidelines during the England-Iran match: Alex Scott, an English sports pundit who used to play for the England women’s team, sported the armband on Monday .



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