FIFA’s goal of having every team respect Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ laws and customs is working.
Seven European teams have reversed their stance on wearing a captain’s armband in support of LGBTQ rights and other minority groups after FIFA threatened to have those players start their 2022 World Cup matches on a yellow card.
The U.S. Men’s National Team’s Group B opponents England and Wales — along with Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland — jointly announced Monday that they would not wear the “One Love” armband after FIFA told their respective countries’ soccer governing bodies that they were banned from wearing the armband.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband,” the joint statement from the seven soccer federations read. “However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.”
FIFA’s own statement tried to avoid the controversy entirely, saying this was strictly about enforcing its rules — which the federations argued were made up to comply with Qatar’s customs.
The seven nations planning to have their captains wear One Love armbands — hardly the biggest show of defiance — to promote anti discrimination have caved to FIFA’s threat to issue yellow cards. Very different tones to the two statements. Here they are: pic.twitter.com/b88Lh02dxf
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) November 21, 2022
France was also set to wear the armband in protest of Qatar’s discrimination against LGBTQ people and same-sex relationships, but its captain already said he wouldn’t wear the armband in a show of respect for host country Qatar.
FIFA told England’s Football Association on Sunday that striker Harry Kane was banned from wearing the armband, despite Kane’s and coach Gareth Southgate’s insistence that it would be worn. England will kneel before kickoff in protest of racial discrimination.
World Cup officials have insisted at every turn that everyone is welcome in the conservative Muslim nation. Security forces were instructed by officials to go against normal Qatari customs by avoiding conflict with journalists and anyone who supports LGBTQ rights.
So far their actions have been quite different. Journalists have been asked to take off a Pride-themed mask and harassed while reporting live from the country. Meanwhile, FIFA has actively tried to suppress criticism of Qatar’s human rights record and laws discriminating against women and LGBTQ people.
It remains to be seen just how many teams stage demonstrations against Qatar that FIFA will feel forced to reign in.