England’s Harry Kane and several other European captains told not to wear ‘OneLove’ armband at World Cup



CNN

The captains of several European national teams will not wear “OneLove” armbands at the World Cup in Qatar due to the risk of receiving yellow cards.

England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Wales were to participate in the “OneLove” campaign to promote inclusion and fight discrimination.

But the associations of those countries said in a statement on Monday that the ribbon – which has a striped heart in different colors to represent all heritages, origins, genders and sexual identities – will not be worn in Qatar.

“FIFA [football’s global governing body] is very clear that they will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear armbands on the field of play,” read the joint statement.

“As national associations, we cannot put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings, so we have asked captains not to try to wear armbands at FIFA World Cup matches.”

“We were prepared to pay the fines that would normally apply to equipment violations and we made a firm commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they receive a yellow card or even be forced to leave the field,” the statement added.

The decision not to display the strip in Qatar comes hours before England’s first game against Iran, while Wales face the USA and the Netherlands face Senegal later on Monday.

Countries said they were “frustrated” by what they described as FIFA’s “unprecedented” decision to sanction captains for wearing the armband.

“We wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our desire to wear the One Love strip to actively support inclusion in football, and have not received a response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show their support in other ways,” the statement continued.

France have been part of a season-long campaign, but last week captain Hugo Lloris told reporters they would “respect” the local culture during the tournament.

Meanwhile, the Dutch FA said on Monday it was “deeply disappointed” that captain Virgil van Dijk would be booked for wearing the armband on the pitch.

In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatar – where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison – has come under fire for its stance on LGBTQ rights.

A report by Human Rights Watch, released last month, documented cases in which Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested LGBT people and subjected them to “mistreatment in custody” as recently as September.

However, the country insisted that “everyone is welcome” to the tournament, adding in a statement to CNN this month that “our results showed that we have warmly welcomed all people regardless of background”.

A statement sent to CNN last week on behalf of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which has been responsible for overseeing infrastructure projects and World Cup planning since its creation in 2011, said it was committed to an “inclusive and non-discriminatory” World Cup, indicating to the fact that the country is said to have hosted hundreds of international and regional sporting events since it was awarded the 2010 World Cup.

Around the same time countries announced their captains would not wear the armband in Qatar, FIFA launched its own “No Discrimination” campaign and said all 32 captains would have the opportunity to wear the armband associated with the campaign.

“I discussed this topic with the state [Qatar] top management,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said at a press conference on Saturday.

“They confirmed, and I can confirm, that everyone is welcome. If someone says otherwise, it is not the opinion of the country and certainly not the opinion of FIFA.”

But FIFA’s decision to sanction players for wearing “OneLove” armbands has sparked outrage, with the Football Supporters’ Association, the national representative body for football fans in England and Wales, saying it “feels betrayed”.

“Since 2010, we have been raising questions about Qatar’s suitability as a World Cup host,” the FSA said in a statement.

“Everyone could see this coming and it is astonishing that, on the morning of the World Cup opener in England, FIFA is censoring players … who want to share a positive message.”

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