Team captains from seven European soccer team will no longer wear an armband with a rainbow heart during their World Cup matches after FIFA threatened to give them yellow cards.
The captains of England, Wales, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland had intended to wear OneLove armbands to support inclusivity at the tournament in Qatar.
With the slogan “Football has the power to unite people,” the OneLove campaign was initiated by the Dutch Football Association in 2020 to express its support for unifying people of all backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations, as well as speaking out against all forms of discrimination.
As part of the campaign, players wore rainbow armbands as a gesture of solidarity and to promote the message of inclusivity.
The teams’ decision to wear a rainbow band had been seen as a form of protest to stand with LGBTQ people, migrant workers and women in Qatar.
Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar, and the host nation has been criticized for its treatment of migrant workers, at least 6,500 of whom have died after it won the bid to host the World Cup in 2010.
In a joint statement from several football associations including England, Wales, and Germany, the teams announced the decision just hours before England was set to play Iran on Monday Nov. 21.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the statement read.
It said the teams were ready to pay fines for breaching the uniform regulations.
“However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked, or even forced to leave the field of play,” they said.
Harry Kane, England’s captain said the team was disappointed by the decision.
“I said yesterday we wanted to wear it. That decision was taken out of my hands today. I turned up to the stadium with the armband that I wore and I was told I had to wear that [the official FIFA one]. It’s out of our control as players. I’m sure the FA and FIFA will continue those discussions but most importantly today we focused on the game and got a great result.”
FIFA’s warning has been met with widespread criticism.
“Today we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance” the Football Supporters’ Association said. “No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, or any other universal human right, should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.”
FIFA had previously announced its own armband initiative in partnership with three UN agencies featuring different social messages for different stages of play.
They include #NoDiscrimination, #SaveThePlanet, #ProtectChildren, #EducationForAll and #BeActive.
Following the seven teams’ plans to abandon the OneLove armbands, FIFA said its #NoDiscrimination armband would be made available throughout the tournament. It was originally set to only be worn for the quarterfinals.