Why FIFA Banned the LGBTQ OneLove Armband at the World Cup


Before the World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino urged the 32 teams bound for Qatar to “let football take center stage“and” focus on soccer,” but just days into the tournament, that wish didn’t exactly go to plan.

first, there was Last Minute Restrictions on Alcohol in and around the stadium. then, there were score of vacant seats Host nation Qatar lost to Ecuador midway through the game. A major dispute between FIFA and seven European countries came to an end on Monday Countries are abandoning plans for their captains to wear a special anti-discrimination armband at the last minute.

, World Cup teams drop “One Love” armbands amid FIFA row

Just three hours before England kicked off against Iran in their Group B opener at the Khalifa International Stadium, the countries involved – England, Wales, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark – issued a joint statement. confirm that Each captain will receive a yellow card at kick-off after learning they will not be wearing the OneLove armband.

FIFA has insisted that yellow cards were sanctioned as a possible result before the last 48 hours, but whatever you believe, a tournament mired in controversy for years in the build-up has also been marred by off-field problems. being affected. after the start of the match.

What is Onelove Armband?

Amid widespread concern about Qatar’s human rights record, various European countries held talks on whether an agreement could be reached for mass expressions during international matches.

Led by the Netherlands Football Association (known as the KNVB), sources have told ESPN that 10 nations were in contact – the aforementioned seven being Norway, Sweden and France. In September, the Nine Nations (without France) Announced the creation of OneLove armband, “designed to harness the power of football to promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind, as the eyes of the world turn to global sport,” according to a news release issued at the time. I was told In response, UEFA confirmed in a statement that it “fully supports” the Vanlove campaign, adding that “the use of the armband has also been approved during the September international window for those associations that are not part of our approached.”

Significantly, the swift approval – UEFA tends to reject anything from member states that could be construed as a political statement – ​​meant that when the same plan was put in place for the World Cup There was no detailed discussion on the possible consequences. FIFA. Sources have told ESPN that the rules for the Euros, for example, are quite broad and UEFA will provide guidance on relevant issues relating to the use of “special equipment”, which is how armbands would be classified.

So why was there such an issue in the World Cup?

The Qatar Supreme Committee and FIFA have repeatedly stressed that “all are welcome” amid concerns over the treatment of LGBTQIA+ people in the Gulf state. Same-sex relationships are illegal in the country and can be punished by death in some cases, making the use of the rainbow armband a highly sensitive topic.

The KNVB’s explanation for how the OneLove heart colors were decided: red/black/green was for everyone regardless of heritage or background, and pink/yellow/blue were used to denote all genders and sexual identities went. The seven nations that qualified for Qatar – Norway and Sweden missed out – made it clear long before the tournament that they planned to wear armbands in Qatar, and it appeared that the only consequence was a FIFA fine. relevant associations indicated They were happy to pay.

However, as the teams arrived in Qatar and began their preparations, rumors began to circulate about a possible yellow card sanction for each of the captains. Rumors therefore ran that, if he chose to wear the armband, he would walk onto the pitch for the start of the game and, at kick-off, be shown a yellow card. FIFA did not publicly confirm the exact details until Monday morning, despite repeated requests for comment, leaving little time for discussion among nations taking part in the action.

goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, whose position on the field minimizes the risk of yellow cards, Insisted He’ll wear the armband regardless. Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk on Sunday less enthusiastic about to discuss the situation again but reiterated his support nonetheless. Around the same time, England boss Gareth Southgate privately believed the matter had been settled, and a few hours later, Harry Kane confirmed his intention to wear the armband regardless,

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Mark Ogden reacts to the news that players will not wear the Vanlove armband after FIFA has confirmed that a player will be banned for wearing one.

Sources have told ESPN that the English FA were in talks with FIFA, but there was no mention of Kane being booked for the gesture until Sunday evening in Qatar. And so as talks between FIFA and national associations continued on Monday morning, FIFA confirmed that the captains would be booked and it was clear that the sanctioning of the game was too high a risk.

In theory, each captain can be banned twice during the tournament if booked in all seven matches, and this is done every time they try to avoid committing another bookable offense before a clear disciplinary ground is considered. Will go in the game. As per FIFA rules, a player booked in the first two matches of the group stage will miss the third group game. He would then be eligible to return to the last 16, but booking at that stage and in the quarter-finals would mean that a player misses the semi-finals (if their team progresses), setting the stage for their return to the final. does.

So what does this mean for the rest of the tournament and the ongoing political backdrop?

Monday’s face-off only serves to heighten the suspicion that FIFA and Qatar are only willing to promote diversity and inclusion if it is on their terms. Just a day before the tournament, FIFA announces its own version Anti-discrimination armbands in the “No Discrimination” campaign. on Monday, He also ordered Belgium to remove the “love” message. There is no room for discussion from the collar of his shirt.

, Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (US)

The various nations are not happy. German FA chief Bernd Neuendorff described FIFA’s threat of sporting sanctions as an “unprecedented show of power”, a view source suggests echoed by several federations. However, FIFA says those countries should not have been surprised.

Article 13.8.1 of the FIFA Equipment Regulations states: “For FIFA Finals competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA.” A media release on Monday stated that: “FIFA is an inclusive organization that seeks to keep football for the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but this must be done within a framework of competition rules that apply to all know. “

Regardless, it’s another off-field problem that underscores the long-running tension between the World Cup and the specific values ​​of Qatar’s culture. In their joint statement, the Seven Nations said: “Our players and coaches are disappointed. They are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.” This series is probably not over yet.

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