World Cup captains drop One Love armbands after FIFA sanctions threat

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The seven European soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced on Monday that their captains in Qatar would not wear LGBTQ armbands after tournament organizers FIFA told the teams that the players would be sanctioned.

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

“We were prepared to pay the fines that would normally be applied to those breaking the kit rules and we made a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they are booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” said the joint statement of the football associations. Three of the teams – England, Wales and the Netherlands – were due to play on Monday.

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“We are deeply disappointed by FIFA’s unprecedented decision,” the teams added, pledging to support “inclusion” in other ways. “As national federations, we cannot put our players in a position where they are subject to sporting sanctions, including suspension.”

Ahead of the tournament, Qatar has faced concerns over its human rights record, including 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 report.

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The OneLove campaign was originally developed by the Dutch football team and initially signed up 10 European teams in September. They agreed that their captains would wear rainbow armbands to send a message against discrimination and promote inclusivity.

The Dutch were the first to announce to the public that captain Virgil van Dijk would not be wearing the armband. “A few hours before the first game, it was (officially) revealed by FIFA that the captain will receive a yellow card if he wears the ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband,” the country’s football association said in a statement. . “We deeply regret that it was not possible to come to a reasonable decision together.

“We stand by the ‘OneLove’ message and will continue to promote 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. Therefore, we as a UEFA task force, the KNVB and the team had to decide to abandon our plan.

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Penalizing team captains prior to the start of the game will result in poor competition at the start of the match, and a second yellow card during the match will result in a dismissal.

The basis for FIFA’s sanctions against players has not been made public, but according to Article 4.3 of FIFA’s equipment regulations, any clothing or equipment may not be worn if it is considered “dangerous, indecent or indecent” or “political in nature”. , religious or personal slogans”.

England captain Harry Kane said in September: “As captains, we may all be competing against each other on the field, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination.” “Wearing the armband on behalf of our teams sends a clear message as the world watches.”

FIFA has rejected OneLove’s campaign and threatened to punish players who wear the armband, according to national football teams. Instead, FIFA suggested national captains wear armbands from a separate “No Discrimination” campaign it plans to launch from the quarter-finals.

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In a separate statement on Monday, soccer’s world body said it had moved forward with the launch of a non-discriminatory campaign to allow the 32 national captains to wear the armband at all tournaments.

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

The Football Association of Wales said in a statement it was saddened and disappointed, but added: “We believe football is for everyone and stand with LGBTQ+ members of the Welsh football family. Football is for everyone.”

The Football Supporters’ Association, which represents fans in England and Wales, issued a statement saying LGBTQ fans were outraged and betrayed by FIFA’s decision.

“Today we hate an organization that shows its true values ​​by handing out yellow cards to players and red cards for restraint,” the group said.

Former England captain Alan Shearer told BBC radio that while the timing of the decision was “unfair” to the players, he would still have worn the armband.

“It would pose a bigger question and a bigger problem for FIFA than not wearing them, which I would have done if I could,” Shearer said.

The OneLove strap was not worn on the pitch but was worn on the sidelines of the England-Iran game: English sports pundit Alex Scott played for England’s women’s team on Monday.

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