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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.”
God forbid you get a yellow card for standing up for human rights!#FootballIsNotForAll#FIFAWorldCup
— Cllr Stefan Hoggan-Radu (@stefanhoggan) November 21, 2022
⚠️BOYCOTT FIFA—England, Wales & other European teams will not wear OneLove armbands at #FIFAWorldCup matches after #FIFA warns of fines & sanctions against players/teams. FIFA is a disgrace to humanity—so are its advertising partners who condone atrocitieshttps://t.co/TzCjdZNI6v pic.twitter.com/KmncFDBPsv
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) November 21, 2022
Bravo to @AlexScott for wearing the One Love armband. Shame on FIFA for not letting the respective nations wear it...#FIFAWorldCup #ENG #IRN #BBCWorldCup https://t.co/sngBOnatKV pic.twitter.com/fR25uVVvLM
— Shahan Miah (@shahanshahan) November 21, 2022
"#FIFAWorldCup kicked off on Sunday in Qatar but I can already tell you who the winner is - shame," says @ManonAubry.
"Shame on those who didn't allow the One Love armbands. We need to change the rules of the game so that shame never again lifts the World Cup trophy." pic.twitter.com/TViSfE2Fmk
— The Left in the European Parliament (@Left_EU) November 21, 2022
I truly have no words for this. Absolutely disgusting by #FIFA.
Every player who still has the balls to wear the One Love armband will be a legend forever.
FIFA really has hit rock bottom. What a pathetic bunch of greedy, corrupt men.#FIFAWorldCup #OneLove #Qatar2022 https://t.co/GQvlILtxjZ
— Swiss Football Data (@swissfootdata) November 21, 2022
Absolutely disgusting of FIFA to ban the One Love armband at this stage. Where is your accusations of hypocrisy now, Gianni Infantino? #FIFAWorldCup
— Jay F.R. Coates (@jfrcoates) November 21, 2022
One love… love is love… until Fifa threaten you with a yellow card in a disgusting backward country
Spineless bastards, I’d have my whole 11 wearing an armband #FIFAWorldCup
— John Ferns (@Johnferns88) November 21, 2022
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