FIFA threat won’t let World Cup teams wear ‘One Love’ armbands

DOHA, Qatar (AP) – FIFA’s threat to punish players on the field has pushed World Cup teams backed out on Monday and abandoned a plan to have their captains wear armbands, which was seen as a reprimand for host country Qatar’s human rights record.

Just hours before the first players were due to take the field wearing the bracelets in support of the One Love campaignthe Football Association warned they would be immediately shown yellow cards – two of which will result in a player being banned from that game and also from the next.

That changed the calculus for the seven European teams who may have only expected a fine. The displays violate FIFA rules.

No player wore the “One Love” armband on Monday, although England’s Harry Kane wore the FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” armband offered as a compromise in the match against Iran.

It was the latest dispute that threatened to overshadow play on the field. Since being awarded host rights at the World Cup in 2010, conservative-Muslim Qatar has faced a number of criticisms, including the treatment of low-paid migrant workers and women and the repression of freedom of expression. She came under particular criticism for her criminalization of homosexuality.

The decision came three days after the sale of beer in stadiums was suddenly banned under pressure from the Qatari government and two days after FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivered an extraordinary tirade Defending the human rights record of the host country.

The captains of seven European nations had vowed to wear armbands with the heart-shaped, multicolored logo of the “One Love” campaign, which promotes inclusion and diversity in football and society. That raised the prospect that viewers worldwide would see a symbol of host country disapproval and opposition to FIFA on the arms of Kane, Dutchman Virgil van Dijk and Welshman Gareth Bale on Monday.

But in the end, teams said they couldn’t sacrifice success on the field.

“As national federations, we cannot put our players in a situation where they face sporting sanctions, including warnings,” the seven football associations said in a joint statement regarding the yellow cards.

The captains of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had also agreed to wear the armbands in the coming days.

“Our top priority at the World Cup is to win the matches,” the Dutch Football Association said in a separate statement. “Then you don’t want the captain to go into the game with a yellow card.”

The risk of a second yellow card, which would result in a player being sent off for the rest of the game and suspended for the next game, is particularly thorny in a tournament where teams only play three games before the K. -o. round begins.

“One thing is clear: we won’t wear the armband if we get a yellow card,” said Dutch coach Louis van Gaal. “And I think we have to question whether this is a correct action on the part of FIFA. I think you can answer that question.”

National football associations and supporters associations have attacked FIFA for its decision to sanction players. The Danish Football Association’s chief executive, Jakob Jensen, told Danish broadcaster TV2 that the organization was “extremely disappointed in FIFA” and the German Football Association’s president, Bernd Neuendorf, called it “another blow”.

“FIFA today banned a declaration on diversity and human rights – values ​​they are committed to in their own statutes,” Neuendorf told reporters in Qatar. “From our point of view, this is more than frustrating and, in my opinion, an unprecedented action in World Cup history.”

The world players’ union FIFPRO described Fifa’s move as “disappointing”.

“Players must have the right to express their support for human rights on and off the field and we will support any of them using their own platforms to do so,” the union said. “We maintain that a rainbow flag is not a political statement, but a commitment to equality and thus to a universal human right.”

England’s Football Supporters Association said it felt cheated by FIFA.

“Today we feel contempt for an organization that has shown its true values ​​by giving players the yellow card and tolerance the red card,” the FSA said.

The Belgian FA expressed frustration that FIFA did not act sooner to resolve an issue that started two months ago, only to escalate on the morning of three-team games. The Europeans “tried several times to avoid an escalation of this initiative … but we have received no response,” said the Belgian federation.

Manon Aubry of France, leader of the left-wing group in the European Parliament, wore the rainbow armband during a debate on human rights related to the World Cup on Monday.

“Shame on those who didn’t allow armbands – ‘One Love’ armbands – to support LGBTQI. I’m proud to be wearing this armband here,” said Aubry, who was reprimanded for wearing it in Parliament, where such displays are not allowed during plenary sessions.

Gurchaten Sandhu, from the Geneva-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, said FIFA has put “athletes in a very, very awkward” position.

“They tied the hands of the national teams. They are there to compete,” he said.

He also criticized Infantino’s speech on Saturday, in which the football boss defended Qatar and lectured to Europeans who criticized the emirate’s human rights record. In that speech, Infantino said: “Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel handicapped. Today I feel like a migrant worker.”

Sandhu criticized Infantino’s choice of words, saying: “You don’t feel gay. You’re a queer.”

It was not immediately clear what influence Qatar’s autocratic government had on the armband decision. The government and its Supreme Delivery and Legacy Committee, which oversees the World Cup, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The European plans violated World Cup regulations and FIFA’s general rules on team kits at their matches.

“At FIFA final tournaments, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA,” the kit regulations state.

The Football Association’s proposal, announced on Saturday, would see captains wearing armbands with socially conscious, if generic, slogans. In this offer, armbands reading ‘No Discrimination’ – the only one of his chosen slogans that meets the desire of European teams – would only appear in the quarter-finals stage.

On Monday, she offered the compromise that captains of all 32 teams “will have the option” to wear an armband with the slogan “No Discrimination” in group matches.

Brazil’s players had no plans to protest, but striker Richarlison said he would “support whatever other players or national teams do”.

“We live in a dangerous world where you can’t have an opinion,” he said at Brazil’s training camp. “I support every thing out there.”


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