World Cup rocked by 'disgusting' furore over 'One Love' armbands

Harry Kane, pictured here during England's clash with Iran at the World Cup.
Harry Kane wasn't allowed to wear the One Love armband for England's clash with Iran at the World Cup. Image: Getty

More controversy has erupted at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar after the captains of seven European nations backed down from wearing anti-discrimination armbands during matches after being threatened with yellow cards by the sport's governing body.

The seven captains - including Harry Kane from England and Gareth Bale of Wales - had planned to wear 'One Love' 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 football and society.

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But under a FIFA edict delivered on Monday, the captains were told they would receive yellow cards if they went ahead with wearing the armbands during games. That sparked a backdown at the 11th hour and the armbands will not be worn.

Australia's gay footballer Josh Cavallo was scathing of FIFA's actions on Tuesday, saying the governing body has shown his sport isn't for everyone.

"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.

Harry Kane, pictured here in action for England against Iran at the World Cup.
Harry Kane in action for England against Iran at the World Cup. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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."

Kane, Bale and the Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk were due to wear the OneLove armbands in Monday's games. The captains of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark were also expected to wear them in coming days.

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

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband,” the statement read.

“However we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play. We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented.”

Gareth Bale, pictured here before the start of Wales' clash with USA at the World Cup.
Gareth Bale (centre) looks on before the start of Wales' clash with USA at the World Cup. (Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images)

European countries under fire over armband backdown

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand was among the many to criticise the backdown from the seven nations.

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

Liverpool-based writer Daniel Austin said: “The One Love armband was a pretty empty gesture anyway, but now all of these nations have completely shat the bed at the first sign of inconvenience.

“Protest isn’t protest if it’s without risk. You either really want to make a stand for people who need it, or you don’t. Cowards.”

Jack Pitt-Brooke of The Athletic wrote: "One of the things that is so dispiriting about all this is that the One Love armband felt like it was designed specifically so that it would be permitted. The blandness and non-specificity of it was the whole point. And they’ve still ultimately decided against wearing it.”

The OneLove armband, pictured here during a football game.
The OneLove armband has been banned at the World Cup in Qatar. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

However German federation president Bernd Neuendorf said the move 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 football 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.

with AAP

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