The captains of seven European teams at the 2022 World Cup abandoned plans to wear armbands in support of the “OneLove” campaign during matches in Qatar after FIFA threatened to hand out yellow cards.
England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands had vowed to sport armbands donning the heart-shaped multi-colored logo of the “OneLove” movement, which promotes inclusion and diversity in soccer and society. The decision was widely viewed by the host country as a protest against Qatar’s human rights record and criminalization of same-sex relationships.
The seven European nations backed down to keep their captains from facing in-game sanctions. A yellow card is a warning, but two yellows would see a player sent off the field for the rest of the game and banned from the next.
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“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the teams said in their statement. “As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.
“We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented — we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed — they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”
The displays are a violation of FIFA Equipment Regulations, which state that “the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA.”
The organization had different armbands planned out for each round of the World Cup. It was previously set to unveil a “No Discrimination” armband during the quarterfinals, but it has now allowed for teams to use that one throughout the tournament. “Football Unites The World” was slated to be the slogan for each team’s first match in FIFA’s original armband layout and was used in the opening contest between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday.
European teams were allowed to wear OneLove armbands at the UEFA Nations League earlier this year. England captain Harry Kane was intent on sporting the armband in the World Cup as late as Sunday before the teams ended their plan.
“I think we’ve made it clear as a team, as a staff and an organization that we want to wear the armband,” he said Sunday. “I know the FA are talking to FIFA at the moment and I’m sure by game time tomorrow we’ll have the decision. I think we’ve made it clear we want to wear it.”
Gurchaten Sandhu, of the Geneva-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, said that FIFA put “athletes in a very, very awkward” position.
“You’ve bound the hands of the national teams. They’re there to compete,” he said.
It wasn’t immediately clear what, if any, influence Qatar’s autocratic government had on the armband decision and the Qatari government’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the World Cup, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.