World Cup teams refuse to wear armbands

FIFA’s threat to punish players on the pitch forced World Cup teams to backtrack on Monday and abandon a plan to have their captains wear armbands, seen as a rebuke to the rights record. from the host nation, Qatar.

Just hours before the first players to wear the armbands in support of the “One Love” campaign took to the pitch, soccer’s governing body warned that they would immediately be shown yellow cards, two of which would lead to the sending off of a player. player of that game. and also the next one.

That changed the calculus for the seven European teams, who expected simply to be fined. Exhibitions are a violation of FIFA rules.

The matchup was just the latest dispute to threaten to overshadow the game on the field. Since being awarded World Cup hosting rights in 2010, conservative Muslim Qatar has faced a range of criticism, including its treatment of women and low-paid migrant workers and its crackdown on freedom expression. He was especially criticized for his criminalization of homosexuality.

The decision came three days after the sale of beer in stadiums was suddenly banned under pressure from the Qatari government and two days after FIFA president Gianni Infantino delivered an extraordinary tirade defending the rights record. humans from the host nation.

The captains of seven European nations had vowed to wear armbands with the multicolored heart-shaped logo of the “One Love” campaign, which promotes inclusion and diversity in football and society. That opened up the possibility for viewers around the world to see a symbol of disapproval with the host country and FIFA challenger in the arms of Englishman Harry Kane, Dutchman Virgil van Dijk and Welshman Gareth Bale on Monday.

But in the end, the teams said they couldn’t sacrifice success on the field.

“As national associations, we cannot put our players in a position where they can face sporting sanctions, including yellow cards,” the seven soccer federations said in a joint statement, referring to the yellow cards.

The captains of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had also promised to wear the armbands in the coming days.

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

The risk of receiving a second yellow, which would get a player banned from the field for the remainder of the game and sent off the next, is particularly tricky in a tournament where teams play only three games before the knockout rounds begin.

National soccer federations and supporters’ associations lashed out at FIFA for its decision to sanction the players. The chief executive of the Danish football federation, Jakob Jensen, told Danish broadcaster TV2 that the organization was “extremely disappointed in FIFA”, and the president of the German football federation, Bernd Neuendorf, he called it “another cheap shot.”

“FIFA today banned a declaration in favor of diversity and human rights: those are values ​​to which it is committed in its own statutes,” Neuendorf told reporters in Qatar. “From our point of view, this is beyond frustrating and, I think, an unprecedented action in World Cup history.”

The Football Fans’ Association of England said it felt betrayed by FIFA.

“Today we feel contempt for an organization that has shown its true values ​​by giving players a yellow card and tolerance a red card,” the FSA said.

Gurchaten Sandhu, of the Geneva-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, said FIFA put “athletes in a very, very uncomfortable position.”

“You have tied the hands of the national teams. They are there to compete,” she said.

He also took issue with Qatar’s Infantino’s defense on Saturday, during which he lectured Europeans who have criticized the emirate’s human rights record and said he felt gay, like a woman and like a migrant worker. Rights groups have criticized Qatar’s treatment of those three groups of people.

“You don’t feel gay. You are gay,” Sandhu said.

It was not immediately clear what influence, if any, Qatar’s autocratic government had on the bracelet decision. The Qatari government and its Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the World Cup, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The European plans infringed the rules of the World Cup and the general rules of FIFA on the equipment of the teams in their matches.

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

The soccer body’s proposal, announced on Saturday, was for captains to wear armbands with socially conscious, if generic, slogans. In that offer, the bracelets that read “No Discrimination” – the only one of his chosen slogan aligned with the desire of the European teams – would appear only in the quarterfinal stage.

On Monday, he offered a compromise, saying the captains of all 32 teams “will have the opportunity” to wear a “No Discrimination” armband in group stage matches.