FIFA blasted for OneLove armband threat

Australia's gay footballer Josh Cavallo says FIFA has shown his sport isn't for everyone by vowing to penalise players wearing anti-discrimination armbands at the World Cup.

Seven captains of European nations had planned to wear OneLove armbands at the World Cup in Qatar, a nation where same-sex relations are illegal.

The captains wanted to wear the armbands to promote inclusion and diversity in soccer and society.

But under a FIFA edict delivered on Monday, the captains would have received yellow cards if they wore the armbands during games.

"FIFA you have lost my respect," Cavallo posted on social media.

"All the work we're doing to make football more inclusive you have shown that football isn't a place for everyone."

Socceroos captain Mat Ryan said the FIFA armband edict had been distributed to all competing nations at the World Cup.

"I was informed it would result in a direct yellow card," Ryan said.

Ryan was among 16 Socceroos players who released a video message prior to the World Cup, calling on the host nation to decriminalise same-sex relations.

"Together with our players union we made our statement a month ago ... just trying to influence positive change in the world." he said.

Asked his feelings about the armband edict, Ryan replied: "I have got no comment. We made our statement with our players union. That's all we can control."

England's Harry Kane, the Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk and Wales' Gareth Bale were due to wear the OneLove armbands in Monday's games.

The captains of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark were also expected to wear the armbands in the coming days.

But the seven European federations released a joint statement after the FIFA edict, saying they would not wear the armbands.

"As national federations we can't put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings," the statement said.

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand criticised the backdown from the seven nations.

"First bump in the road and they have folded like a pack of cards," he told the BBC.

But van Dijk hit back at claims the Netherlands and other countries have been spineless.

Oranje skipper Van Dijk told Dutch broadcaster NOS: "I play in a position where a yellow card is not useful. I became a football player and I want to play these kind of tournaments.

"There are people who say we don't have a backbone, but that's not how it works," the Liverpool defender added.

"We just want to play football. I would have loved to play with that band, but not at the expense of a yellow card."

German federation president Bernd Neuendorf said the move by soccer's governing body was an "outrageous demonstration of power from FIFA."

The Dutch association said: "The fact that FIFA wants to punish us on the pitch is unprecedented and goes against the spirit of the sport that unites millions."

The OneLove campaign began in the Netherlands.

Its symbol was a a heart-shaped multi-coloured logo aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity in soccer and society.

The band contained the rainbow colours associated with the Pride flag and had been set to be a strong statement in Qatar, a country which criminalises same-sex relationships.

According to FIFA rules, team equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images.

And during competitions, the captain of each team "must wear the captain's armband provided by FIFA".

FIFA said on on Monday captains of all 32 teams "will have the opportunity" to wear an armband with the slogan 'No Discrimination' in the group games.

The governing body also refused Belgium permission to wear their second strip because of the word "Love" in the collar combined with a rainbow-coloured trim on the shirt.

If the word 'Love' is removed from the inside of the shirt, the team is allowed to wear it.

The design was inspired by the fireworks of Belgian's famous music festival Tomorrowland and stands for diversity, equality and inclusivity.