European teams scrap ‘One Love’ LGBT rights armband plan at World Cup

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France, England, Germany and four other European teams at the World Cup on Monday abandoned plans to wear a rainbow-themed armband in support of LGBTQ rights, citing the threat of disciplinary action from FIFA.

“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the seven teams said in a joint statement.

Under FIFA rules, players wearing kit that is not authorized by football’s world governing body could be shown a yellow card.

If that player was then shown a second yellow card, they would be sent off.

The armbands had been widely viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in the World Cup host nation Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games,” the federations of England, Wales , Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland said.

The climbdown after threats from FIFA came hours before England’s Harry Kane, the Netherlands’ Virgil van Dijk and Wales’ Gareth Bale were due to wear the armbands in Monday’s games. The captains of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had also pledged to wear the armbands in the coming days.

“Our number one priority at the World Cup is to win the games,” the Dutch soccer federation said in a separate statement. “Then you don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card.”

Monday’s decision shows the political situation surrounding the first World Cup in the Middle East – even after FIFA president Gianni Infantino asked all 32 national teams to keep politics off the soccer field.

Since being awarded the World Cup hosting rights in 2010, Qatar has faced years of criticism regarding its treatment of low-paid migrant workers as well as its criminalization of gay and lesbian sex.

A testy meeting

FIFA raised the prospect of yellow cards on Sunday during a testy meeting with European soccer federations, including the seven teams that pledged to wear the armband.

The One Love campaign was started in the Netherlands and its symbol is a heart-shaped multi-colored logo aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity in football and society.

However, the European plans were in clear breach of World Cup regulations and FIFA’s general rules on team equipment at its games.

“For FIFA final competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA,” the football body’s equipment regulations state.

The armband dispute flared up two months ago when 10 European teams said they had joined the longer-standing campaign in Dutch soccer, but it was still not resolved when the seven teams arrived in Qatar.

FIFA offered its own compromise Monday by saying captains of all 32 teams “will have the opportunity” to wear an armband with the slogan “No Discrimination” in the group games.

FIFA’s original offer Saturday was that “No Discrimination” – the only one of its chosen slogans aligned with the European teams’ wish – would appear only at the quarter-final stage.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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