As countries prepared to kick off their first games of the Qatar World Cup, seven European teams who had planned to wear anti-discrimination OneLove armbands confirmed that they were abandoning the initiative due to the prospect of FIFA sanctions. In a joint statement published on November 21, England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland said that while they “were prepared to pay fines,” they did not want to make their players vulnerable to suspensions through yellow cards as was threatened by the regulating body.
Many people have spoken out about the teams’ decision to not wear the OneLove armbands. Among them is Roy Keane, an infamous football pundit and former Ireland and Manchester United captain.
While on duty for ITV Sport, Keane stated: “I think the players could have done it for the first game, and took the punishment, whatever that might be… that would have been a great statement.”
Commenting particularly on England and Wales’ decision to backtrack, he added: “Do it for the first game, if you get your yellow card, what a message that would have been from [Harry] Kane or [Gareth] Bale. Take your medicine, and then the next game you move on, you don’t wear it, because obviously, you don’t want to be getting suspended.”
He said he thought it was a “big mistake” and that the players “should have stuck to their guns” and worn the OneLove armbands. “Whatever pressure from outside and from their own associations, have the belief, if that’s what you believe, then go with it,” he concluded.
"That would have been a great statement!" 🙌
Roy Keane believes the England squad should have worn the One Love armband and taken any punishment that came their way…
🗣️ @markpougatch #ITVFootball | #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/P5TNTaq5v2
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 21, 2022
Similarly, in a separate segment, Keane condemned FIFA’s decision to grant Qatar hosting rights, saying, “The World Cup shouldn’t be here,” because of its treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people. “You can’t treat people like that,” he said. “We all love football, we all love soccer, we’re all about spreading the game, but just to dismiss human rights flippantly because of a football tournament. It’s not right.”
"The World Cup shouldn't be here, you've got a country and the way they treat migrant workers, gay people. We're on about spreading the game but dismissing human rights, it's not right. It shouldn't be here."
Powerful words from Roy Keane about the World Cup in Qatar pic.twitter.com/lAUbItPC0Z
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 22, 2022
Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, also shared his views regarding the OneLove armbands, saying it was “disappointing” that teams did not follow through with their plans.
“I understand that FIFA are seeking to introduce their own, I suppose, equality messaging, but I think the original responses of the European teams was very much focused on solidarity, particulary with members of the LGBTI+ community,” he commented.
“I think that was important and I think it’s perhaps disappointing if they felt forced by a sudden, and it seems to be quite a sudden, last minute change in the rules, in terms of changing their approach.”
BBC pundit and former Lioness Alex Scott made her own views very clear by wearing the OneLove armband during her coverage of England’s first match of the Qatar World Cup. The ex-professional footballer donned the accessory while presenting in the Khalifa International Stadium, after news emerged that English captain Harry Kane would not be wearing it.
Scott, who herself is queer, received widespread praise for her brave gesture, with one Twitter user saying she “has more balls than England and all of the other teams who backtracked on their decision… what a queen!” Another wrote: “alex scott, a queer woman of colour, wearing the one love armband just shows that she has so much more courage than anyone walking on that pitch today”.
This is courage and protest.
She is risking a lot by doing this. In so many ways.
Women have led the way throughout history. More specifically, Black women.
Safety to you @AlexScott https://t.co/sKLzDnsSu5
— Kelsey Trainor (@ktrain_11) November 21, 2022
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