In an unprecedented and controversial move, FIFA has stated it will impose strict sporting sanctions against any football captains who wear the OneLove armband during the course of the Qatar World Cup 2022.
According to the BBC, the Football Associations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland released a statement early this morning (21 November 2022) detailing the recent decision made by the global football organisation: “FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. 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 joint associations continued: “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented—we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the OneLove armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed—they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”
The OneLove armband is the physical manifestation of an initiative created in the hopes of promoting inclusivity and support for the LGBTQIA+ community within football. A number of football captains, including England captain Harry Kane, had previously stated their intentions to sport the colourful armband during the tournament—which has been deemed the most controversial sporting event to date.
However, it now appears that Kane, alongside a number of other European captains, will no longer participate in the campaign in fear of being heavily fined or even booked (receiving a yellow card).
The World Cup, which officially kicked off on 20 November 2022, has already been highly criticised by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International for the poor working conditions of migrant labourers—many of whom died during the construction of the infrastructure needed to host the sporting event.
Qatari officials garnered further criticism after World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman told German TV broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality is “damage in the mind.”
In response to the recent banning of the OneLove armband, many netizens took to Twitter to publicise their outrage and disappointment. One user made a dig against current FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s recent statements and simply posted: “Today I feel gay, and tomorrow I’m banning an armband that is worn to promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind.”
While sports journalist Jack Pitt-Brooke wrote: “One of the things that is so dispiriting about all this is that the OneLove armband felt like it was designed specifically so that it would be permitted. The blandness and non-specificity of it was the whole point. And they’ve still ultimately decided against wearing it.”
Later in the day, as England faced Iran on the pitch, a number of individuals pointed out the humiliating reality that, while so many nations chose not to wear the OneLove armband simply to avoid being booked, the Iranian team refused to sing their national anthem out of solidarity with the nationwide protests taking place back home after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police. They took action, despite knowing that they could face serious punishment or persecution when they return.