Footballers from Western European nations who wanted to support LGBT rights are now backing down and declining to wear the multi-colored “One Love” armband at the World Cup in Qatar after FIFA threatened sanctions, including yellowcards, against any players seen wearing the symbol.
Footballers in nations like England, Wales, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland consulted with their national football associations, and the threat of sanctions for displaying the LGBT symbol were too great to risk. Qatar is a Muslim country ruled by Sharia law where homosexuality is illegal.
England’s captain, Harry Kane, was set to wear the armband in a match against Iran, but the English team released a joint statement before the game saying they had changed their minds: “We had been willing to pay penalties, which would normally be the case for dress code violations. However, we couldn’t put our players in a situation where they could get a yellow card or even be forced to leave the field.”
National German Football Association (DFB) President Bernd Neuendorf called FIFA’s decision to sanction the armbands as an “unprecedented event in World Cup history. We will not carry out the confrontation brought about by FIFA.” Neuendorf made the statement after the captain of the German national team, star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, said he would no longer wear the “OneLove” armband after expressing his desire to do so. The news is making top headlines in Germany.
According to Germany’s Taggeschau media outlet, FIFA was not only threatening yellow cards but also potential player dismissals and even point reductions from teams competing in the World Cup.
In a statement, the association pointed to Article 13.8.1 of the Equipment Rules: “For FIFA finals, the captain of each team must wear an armband provided by FIFA.” FIFA indicates it supports campaigns like “One Love,” but this support must be done within the framework of the rules.
According to Lee Wagner, a reporter for Germany’s ARD public broadcaster, “It looks as if FIFA President Gianni Infantino is taking revenge for the growing criticism from the DFB and other European associations,” said Wagner. The DFB recently announced that it would not support Infantino in his re-election as FIFA president.
The Dutch football association (KNVB) expressed that FIFA’s decision was incomprehensible.
“The fact that FIFA wants to punish us on the pitch is unique and goes against the spirit of sport, which unites millions,” explained the KNVB. “We stand by the ‘One Love’ message and will continue to spread it, but our number one priority is to win games. You don’t want the captain to start the game with a yellow card.”
Neuendorf had already spoken about differences of opinion with FIFA on Sunday, but also said: “We informed FIFA a long time in advance that we want to play with this armband, and there was no reaction from FIFA.” After consultation, the associations changed their minds.
The campaign was a joint effort announced in September by teams from Germany, England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Wales, France, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, although the last two did not qualify for the World Cup.