The captains of several European teams will not wear ‘OneLove’ armbands at the World Cup in Qatar due to the risk of receiving yellow cards.
England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Wales were to join the ‘OneLove’ campaign to promote inclusion and fight discrimination.
However, those countries’ associations said in a statement on Monday that the armband – which features a striped heart in different colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities – will not be worn in Qatar.
“FIFA [football’s global governing body] it has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the pitch,” the joint statement said.
“As national associations, we cannot put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including suspensions, so we have asked captains not to attempt to wear the armbands at FIFA World Cup matches.”
“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 could receive a yellow card or even be forced to leave the pitch,” the statement added.
The decision not to display the armband in Qatar comes hours before England’s opening game against Iran, while Wales face the USA and the Netherlands play Senegal later on Monday.
The countries said they were “disappointed” by what they described as an “unprecedented” decision by FIFA to sanction captains for wearing the armband.
“We wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our desire to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football and have had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways,” the statement continued.
France have been part of the season-long campaign, but last week captain Hugo Lloris told reporters he would “respect” the local culture during the tournament.
The Dutch FA, meanwhile, said on Monday it was “deeply disappointed” that captain Virgil van Dijk would receive a yellow card for wearing the armband on the pitch.
In the context of the World Cup, Qatar – where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison – has come under fire for its stance on LGBTQ rights.
A Human Rights Watch report published last month documented cases as recently as September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to “mistreatment in custody.”
However, the country insisted that “everyone is welcome” at the tournament, adding in a statement to CNN this month that “our track record has shown that we have warmly welcomed all people regardless of origin”.
A statement sent to CNN last week by the Supreme Commission for Tradition & Heritage (SC), which, since its establishment in 2011, has been responsible for overseeing infrastructure projects and planning for the World Cup, said it was committed for “an inclusive and non-discriminatory” World Cup, pointing to the fact that the country, he said, has hosted hundreds of international and regional sporting events since it was awarded the World Cup in 2010.
Around the same time countries announced their captains would not wear the armband in Qatar, FIFA unveiled its own ‘No Discrimination’ campaign and said all 32 captains would have the opportunity to wear an armband linked to the campaign.
“I have spoken about this issue with the country [Qatar] top leadership,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said at a press conference on Saturday.
“They have confirmed, and I can confirm, that everyone is welcome. If someone says otherwise, it is not the opinion of the country and it is certainly not the opinion of FIFA.”
But FIFA’s decision to sanction players for wearing the ‘OneLove’ armband has sparked outrage, with the Football Supporters’ Association, the national representative body for football fans in England and Wales, saying it “feels betrayed ».
“Since 2010 we have been raising questions about Qatar’s suitability as a World Cup host,” an FSA statement said.
“Everyone could see this coming and it’s amazing that, on the morning of England’s World Cup opener, FIFA is censoring players … who want to share a positive message.”