Seven European countries competing in the Qatar World Cup have asked their team captains to not wear anti-discrimination OneLove armbands after FIFA threatened to impose sanctions. The governing body confirmed that those who sport the accessory on the field of play would be given yellow cards, making players more vulnerable to match suspensions.
In a joint statement published on Monday, November 21, England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland said: “As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions… 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.”
Under football regulations, if a player receives two yellow cards in one match, they receive a red card and cannot participate in the rest of the game. Similarly, if a player receives two yellow cards throughout the duration of the tournament, they are suspended from playing in the team’s next fixture.
Instead of the 'One Love' armband, England captain Harry Kane is wearing one that says 'No Discrimination' for their opening World Cup game. pic.twitter.com/f5FSZK1ngE
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) November 21, 2022
The statement continued: “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,” it concluded.
The OneLove armbands were to be worn by team captains at the FIFA World Cup in a display of solidarity with vulnerable communities affected by the human rights issues in Qatar – namely LGBTQ+ people and migrant workers. Homosexuality remains illegal in the Gulf nation, punishable by imprisonment and even death under Sharia law.
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) November 21, 2022
The 2022 tournament has faced widespread backlash, with pundit and former Irish footballer Eamon Dunphy condemning FIFA for its decision to grant Qatar hosting rights. Appearing on the Late Late Show on Friday, November 18, he said: “Soccer needs to stop this corruption. It needs to support workers’ rights and it needs to encourage, to do everything, to get gay people to come and play.
“Look at the women’s soccer team here, qualified for the World Cup, it’s fantastic. Look at Kellie Harrington and what she’s done. If any player in the Premier League came out, his life would be hell. Therefore, no one has ever come out – except one,” he continued.
“We have to, as a sport, encourage people to come and to embrace it. Awarding [the World Cup] to a country with Qatar’s attitude to gay people is doing the exact opposite.
“We have an Irish gay team – but they shouldn’t have to be in a team, they should be in every team. People should be respected for what they are as human beings, not what they do in their private lives,” he powerfully added.
‘People should be respected for what they are as human beings, not what they do in their private lives’ – Eamon Dunphy outlines Qatar’s attitude towards homosexuality on @RTELateLateShow ahead of the World Cup pic.twitter.com/vXseEhLLZG
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) November 18, 2022
Ahead of the tournament kicking off on Sunday, November 20, FIFA President Gianni Infantino slammed the European criticism of the World Cup, adding: “Today I feel Qatari. I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker.
“Of course I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it because I know what it means to be discriminated, to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian so imagine.
“What do you do then? You try to engage, make friends. Don’t start accusing, fighting, insulting, you start engaging. And this is what we should be doing,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, his speech was not well-received, and the World Cup has continued to be at the center of much negative attention. The first game of the event took place on Sunday, November 20, and the tournament will run until December 18.
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