November 22 – European teams have reacted with disappointment and dismay after being forced by FIFA to abandon plans to wear ‘OneLove’ armbands at the World Cup in support of LGBTQ rights.
The move was scrapped after FIFA, which had not responded to the idea until the very last minute, warned players would face ‘sporting sanctions’ if they broke strict rules on what kind of equipment they were allowed to wear.
These stipulate no political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images and say that the captain of each team “must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA”.
However not for the first time, after insisting in the build-up to the World Cup that it was an inclusive organisation, FIFA has badly let the side down by rigidly sticking to ‘protocol’ and cynically waiting until the eve of the tournament to show its muscle.
When FIFA did finally respond, it was “very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the European nations said in a statement.
“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, as national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings.
“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 OneLove 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 armbands were seen as a significant statement of solidarity with the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups in Qatar. They were intended “to actively support inclusion in football,” the European teams said.
“You don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card. That is why it is with a heavy heart that we as a UEFA working group … and as a team had to decide to abandon our plan,” the Dutch federation (KNVB) said, adding that FIFA had made it clear only hours before kick-off of their opening match against Senegal on Monday that captain Virgil van Dijk would get a yellow card if he walked on the pitch wearing the armband as planned.
The KNVB said it was “deeply disappointed” at FIFA’s stance and would not let it pass unnoticed. “This is completely against the spirit of our sport, which unites millions of people. Together with other countries involved we will critically look at our relation with FIFA.”
The armband had been designed to convey a message “against any form of discrimination”, the Dutch FA said. While it is not solely aimed at the rights of the LGBTQ community, the armband carries special significance in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable with prison.
Danish manager Kasper Hjulmand said he saw no reason for the sanctions.
“This is not something invented for this occasion. It’s something we have done before,” Hjulmand said. “I can’t see the problem to be honest. For me, it’s also a big question mark.”
Global players’ union FIFPRO called the FIFA move “disappointing.”
“Players must have a right to express their support for human rights on and off the field of play and we will support any of them who will use their own platforms to do so,” the union said. “We maintain that a rainbow flag is not a political statement but an endorsement of equality and thus a universal human right.”
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