England, Wales and five other European teams at the 2022 FIFA World Cup have backed down on their decision to wear the OneLove armband at the tournament. The late decision follows a persistent threat from FIFA of football-related sanctions on team captains and national associations.
A joint statement by the seven national associations which include Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark quashed the earlier decision to wear the heart-shaped multi-coloured armband that has 1 in the middle.
“Fifa has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. As national federations, 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,” parts of the statement read.
According to the associations, they were ready to pay fines which is often the case with kit breaches but are not ready to risk it since threats were targeted at the players.
“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.
They said they are very frustrated by the decision while revealing that they had written to FIFA as far back as September to announce their intentions to use the rainbow-coloured armband to promote inclusivity.
“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 One Love 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.”
England’s captain Harry Kane previously said of the armband, “We’ve made it clear as a team and a staff and organisation that we want to wear the armband. I think we’ve made it clear that we want to wear it”.
The Netherlands started the One Love armband campaign when it ushered in at the Euro 2020 with the skipper wearing the armband during the tournament. The purpose is to promote inclusivity, a signal of strong support for LGBTQI+ activities.
FIFA rules do not allow the use of political slogans on kits. The world football governing body has themes that it uses for the armbands during the World Cup and they vary depending on the stage of the competition.
It proposed #FootballUnitesTheWorld, #SaveThePlanet, #ProtectChildren and #ShareTheMeal as the themes for the group stage matches. The round of 16 will have #EducationForAll and #FootballForSchools while the quarter-final matches will feature #NoDiscrimination.
Matches in the semi-final will feature #BeActive and #BringTheMoves as the themes whereas the final and third-place play-off will have #FootballUnitesTheWorld as the message.
Qatar’s local laws frown on homosexuality and same-sex-related activities. Homosexuality is even punishable by death. Many people especially Europeans have criticised FIFA’s decision to hand over the hosting rights to the Gulf state due to its alleged poor human rights records.
Germany and Norway wore t-shirts that protested the decision to play the World Cup in Qatar. In Norway’s World Cup qualifier against Gibraltor in March 2021 wore t-shirts with the inscription “Human rights – on and off the pitch”. Germany did a similar thing in their match against Iceland. They both, however, did not receive sanctions from FIFA as the global football governing body opted against applying sanctions.