England, Germany and five other European teams have scrapped plans to wear the "OneLove" armband in support of LGBTQ rights at the World Cup, citing the threat of disciplinary action
Doha (AFP) - England, Germany and five other European teams at the World Cup on Monday abandoned plans to wear rainbow-themed armbands in support of LGBTQ rights because of the threat of FIFA disciplinary action.
Belgium, one of the teams, also said that football’s governing body will not allow them to use their rainbow-tinged second kit with the word “Love” on the collar.
The armbands had widely been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in World Cup host Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the seven teams said in a joint statement.
German Football Association president Bernd Neuendorf called FIFA’s stance “an unprecedented event in World Cup history” and “a show of force” from the world governing body.
Under its rules, players wearing kit that is not authorised by FIFA could be shown a yellow card.
If that player was then shown a second yellow card, they would be sent off.
The “OneLove” armband due to be worn by the likes of England captain Harry Kane and Germany’s Manuel Neuer was designed as part of a campaign to promote inclusivity.
“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,” the federations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland said.
It came just hours before England kicked off their World Cup campaign against Iran and the Netherlands opened their tournament against Senegal. Wales played later Monday against the United States.
When the “OneLove” initiative was announced in September, Kane said he was “honoured” to join fellow World Cup captains in donning the armband.
Speaking after England’s 6-2 thumping of Iran, coach Gareth Southgate said the issue had become a distraction.
“I actually understand FIFA’s point. If you don’t draw a line it sets a precedent,” he said, before adding: “People know what we stand for.”
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal, whose side beat Senegal 2-0, said: “Actually I no longer want to answer political questions.
“This is the time to talk only about football, but one thing is clear: we are not going to wear the armband if we are going to get a yellow card.”
- ‘Red card to tolerance’ -
Qatar’s laws against homosexuality have been a long-running controversy in the build-up to the World Cup.
Former Qatari international and World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman sparked outrage earlier this month after calling homosexuality “damage in the mind” in an interview with German television.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has repeatedly insisted however that all fans and visitors to the finals would be welcome, regardless of sexual orientation.
But LGBTQ rights campaigners and fan groups on Monday accused FIFA of “bullying” teams into deciding not to wear the armbands.
“The OneLove armband was the tiniest of gestures,” said prominent LGBTQ activist Peter Tatchell in a statement.
“It was a weak campaign, but even that was too much for FIFA, who have bullied the England team to not wear it.”
The Football Supporters’ Association, which represents fans in England and Wales, said: “Today we feel betrayed. Today we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance.
“It’s astonishing that on the morning of England’s World Cup opener, FIFA are censoring players… who wish to share a positive message.”
However France captain Hugo Lloris – who last week revealed he would not wear the armband – said: “FIFA organises the competition and so they set out the rules.
“Us players just ask to play football and represent our countries on the field.
“I prefer to stay within those boundaries and focus on being a player and a competitor.”