Following FIFA’s threat of yellow cards for any players wearing the “OneLove” armbands during the World Cup, the federations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have asked their captains not to wear them. The Netherlands, England and Wales open play Monday.
“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,” the federations said in a joint statement Monday.
“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.”
The “OneLove” campaign originated in the Netherlands and promotes diversity and inclusion in soccer. Several of the game’s most high-profile players, including England captain Harry Kane and Germany captain Manuel Neuer, wore rainbow armbands at the 2020 European championship. They were determined to wear them in Qatar, where the penal code punishes extramarital sex, including same-sex relations, with up to seven years in prison.
“I think we’ve made it clear that we want to wear it,” Kane said Sunday evening in Doha.
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But FIFA has shown it will do whatever is necessary to appease Qatar, where LGBTQ people have been arrested and abused while in custody, according to Human Rights Watch.
The refusal to allow the armbands follows FIFA’s reversal Friday on allowing alcoholic beer to be sold at World Cup stadiums. The move was seen as a way to placate Qatar, where drinking in public is not allowed and being drunk in public is a crime, even though it came at the expense of longtime partner Budweiser.
The armbands are a breach of FIFA rules, which state “the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA.” But European soccer has given players permission to wear the “OneLove” bands in its tournaments, and the seven countries asked FIFA in September to do the same.
Despite the European nations repeatedly asking for an answer, FIFA did not provide one until the weekend, just before the World Cup began. The threat of a yellow card proved to be too much — the European nations called it “unprecedented” — because a player who picks up two yellow cards is suspended for a game. Bookings are not wiped out until after the quarterfinals.
That meant if Kane, for example, was given a yellow for wearing the armband, he would be out for a game should he be given another yellow. England, France and Germany are all considered contenders for the World Cup and losing one of their star players for a game could ruin their chances.
“We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision,” the statement from the European nations said. “Our players and coaches are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”
FIFA did say Monday that all captains are now allowed to wear its “No Discrimination” armbands. That campaign was originally not supposed to begin until the quarterfinals.
FIFA announced the decision in a release with a headline, “FIFA is an inclusive organisation and supports all legitimate causes, such as ‘One Love’.”
The United States squad did not join in the armband request but has branded its logo with a rainbow theme for the duration of the World Cup. However, that only goes for locations the U.S. Soccer Federation controls, such as training facilities and at the team hotel; FIFA has final say for the crest on uniforms during games.