With all of the controversy and complications happening over in Qatar during the World Cup, FIFA has just run into one more. Before the World Cup, the captains of seven European teams (England, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Wales, Belgium and the Netherlands) were planning to wear OneLove armbands on the field in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal. These armbands show support for the LGBTQ+ community. According to their joint statement, the teams told FIFA their plans in September with no response.
But, just before the start of matches, FIFA told players that they couldn't wear these armbands. If they do, FIFA has threatened to give them yellow cards, a type of warning in football. An accumulation of yellow cards could result in the player being suspended from the match. Under FIFA rules, players can only wear what's already been authorized by the organization as their team's uniform. On Monday, the seven teams jointly announced that they would be asking players not to wear the armbands. On top of that, ESPN reported that FIFA ordered the Belgium team to remove the word "love" from their away uniforms. FIFA has since come out today with approved "No Discrimination" armbands as an alternative option.
In a joint statement, all seven national teams said: "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."
"We have the complete backing of the (German Football Association), we have no fear," Germany's Manuel Neuer said, insisting that he planned to wear the OneLove armband regardless of potential sanctions.
"As captains we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination," said England's Harry Kane in September when the OneLove campaign was announced. "This is even more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching."
"Everything that happens on the pitch is a FIFA matter," a spokesperson of Qatar's Supreme Committee, Fatma Al Nuaimi, told CNN in Doha. "There's nothing to comment about, I think it's between … the teams and FIFA directly.".
"Following discussions, FIFA can confirm its No Discrimination campaign has been brought forward from the planned quarter-finals stage in order that all 32 captains will have the opportunity to wear this armband during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022," said a statement from FIFA. "FIFA is an inclusive organisation that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but it has to be done within the framework of the competition regulations which are known to everyone."
"I have been speaking about this subject with the country's highest leadership," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said at the opening of the World Cup. "They have confirmed, and I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If anyone says the opposite, well it's not the opinion of the country and it's certainly not the opinion of FIFA."