World Cup teams drop ‘OneLove’ armband amid FIFA row

The captains of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands will not wear the “OneLove” anti-discrimination armband in their opening World Cup games after confirmed that their captains will receive yellow cards if they take part in the initiative.

The announcement came just before the expected start of their World Cup campaigns. National federations said they were prepared to pay a fine for their captains to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband, but once it became clear their captains would be fined, they had to change their plans.

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“FIFA has been very clear that they will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the pitch,” read a joint statement from the nations. “As national federations we cannot put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings, so we have asked captains not to attempt to wear the armbands during football matches. the FIFA World Cup.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and we were firmly committed to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they could be warned or even forced to leave the field of play.

“We are very frustrated with FIFA’s decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September to inform them of our wish to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband to actively support inclusion in football , and we have had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong believers in inclusion and will show their support in other ways.”

FIFA announced before the start of the tournament that they would have seven different armbands available for each round of the competition, each with various social messaging slogans. But shortly after the seven nations announced they would not be wearing the ‘OneLove’ armband on Monday, FIFA announced it would make the ‘No Discrimination’ armband available throughout the tournament, when it was due previously be taken to the quarter-finals.

“Following discussions, FIFA can confirm that its ‘Non-Discrimination’ campaign has been brought forward from the planned quarter-final stage so that all 32 captains have the opportunity to wear this armband during the World Cup. of FIFA, Qatar 2022,” the statement said.

“This is in accordance with article 13.8.1 of the FIFA Equipment Regulations, which states: ‘For FIFA final competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA. “”

The Dutch were the first to publicly announce that Virgil van Dijk wouldn’t wear the armband. The KNVB statement on the decision said: “Today, a few hours before the first match, it was made clear to us by FIFA (officially) that the captain will receive a yellow card if he wears the captain’s armband. “OneLove”.We deeply regret that it was not possible to reach a reasonable solution together.

“We stand for the ‘OneLove’ message and will continue to spread it, but our #1 priority at the World Cup is to win the games. You don’t want the captain to start the game with a yellow card. That’s why it is with heavy hearts that we, as a UEFA task force, KNVB and as a team, had to decide to abandon our plan.”

The KNVB added: “As previously announced, the KNVB would have paid a possible fine for wearing the captain’s armband ‘OneLove’, but that FIFA wants to punish us on the pitch for this has never been seen. It goes to against the spirit of our a sport that connects millions of people. Together with the other countries concerned, we will take a critical look at our relationship with FIFA in the coming period.”

France, which was also part of the initiative, will not wear the armband either. French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet had said he would prefer players not to wear the rainbow armbands, while captain Hugo Lloris reiterated the team’s stance at a press conference on Monday after saying there was “too much pressure”. on the players to demonstrate in Qatar.

Nine nations, including Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, agreed in September to wear the armband as a symbol of diversity, inclusion and anti-discrimination amid concerns over Qatar’s record on of human rights.

FIFA and UEFA generally do not allow teams to make political statements, but European football’s governing body has granted a waiver for armbands to be worn at their UEFA Nations League matches.

FIFA has not made its position clear and, just a day before the start of the World Cup, has launched its own armbands which all captains must wear to promote social awareness. The nine nations, of which only seven are present at the World Cup, were prepared to accept a fine for doing the gesture, but there were suggestions that each captain could receive a yellow card at the start of each game.

And on the day European nations were about to kick off their World Cup campaigns, they took the unilateral decision not to wear the armband for fear their captains would be punished.

The day before England’s opener against Iran, their captain Harry Kane announced that he planned to wear it.

“I think we’ve made it clear as a team, as a staff and as an organization that we want to wear the armband,” Kane said on Sunday. “I know the FA are talking to FIFA at the moment and I’m sure by the time of the match tomorrow we’ll have the decision. I think we’ve made it clear that we want to wear it. “

Dutch manager Louis van Gaal and captain Van Dijk have been asked if they will wear the armband at the press conference the day before their opening game. Van Gaal, the Dutch coach, replied: “I’m not going to talk about political issues anymore, I’m talking about this upcoming game and I’m putting a full stop on all these issues.

“After inviting the migrants to attend a training session, I asked all our players to put an end to this and focus on the game against Senegal.”

Other nations had confirmed they planned to wear the armband, with Wales and Germany doing so this weekend.

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