World Cup captains want to wear rainbow headbands in Qatar

FIFA came under pressure on Wednesday from several European football federations who want their captains to wear a rainbow heart armband during World Cup matches in Qatar to campaign against discrimination.

France and Germany, the last two World Cup winners, were among eight of the 13 European football teams that traveled to Qatar and joined the “OneLove” campaign, which began in the Netherlands. The Dutch team will face Qatar in Group A on 29 November.

FIFA rules prohibit teams from bringing their own bracelet designs to the World Cup and insist that they must use the equipment provided by the governing body.

Armbands are the ultimate battleground for players to send political messages related to the World Cup hosted in Qatar, where homosexual acts are illegal and the treatment of migrant workers building plans for the tournament has been a decades-long controversy .

“Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching,” England captain Harry Kane said in a statement.

The Swiss football federation said it wanted Captain Granit Xhaka to wear an armband on which “you can see a heart with different colors representing the diversity of humanity”.

Soccer players have embraced their platform for making statements in recent years. Kneeling on the pitch was a pre-Premier League game routine for two seasons after the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in the United States.

FIFA has claimed to kneel and now must decide whether to support some of its most influential member associations in a gesture that could embarrass Qatar.

“A request has also been made to FIFA asking that permission be granted for bands to be worn during the FIFA World Cup,” the Welsh football federation said in a statement.

FIFA did not immediately comment on the request.

European football club UEFA said it “fully supports the OneLove campaign, initially developed by the (Dutch association)”.

The bracelets will also be worn at UEFA’s organized Nations League matches this week, including by both captains when Belgium host Wales on Thursday.

UEFA previously allowed Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to wear a rainbow captain’s armband at last year’s Europeans matches, including against tournament co-organizer Hungary, where lawmakers passed anti-gay legislation during the tournament.

The campaign for the bracelets was launched a day after the Emir of Qatar spoke to the UN General Assembly in New York promising a non-discriminatory World Cup.

“The people of Qatar will welcome football fans from all walks of life with open arms,” ​​Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said in a speech to other world leaders.

The eight European teams supporting the “OneLove” human rights campaign also included Belgium and Denmark. The five European World Cup qualifiers that did not take part on Wednesday were Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Spain.

However, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski, two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, said he would bring an armband in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag to Qatar this week.

Poland refused to play against Russia, the host of the 2018 World Cup, in a playoff match in March. Before the match, FIFA and European football body UEFA banned Russian teams from international competition because the country had invaded Ukraine.

The campaign for the bracelets emerged as a panel of UEFA-affiliated associations monitored progress in Qatar on labor and other human rights reforms ahead of the tournament.

That panel includes the Norwegian football federation, whose president Lise Klaveness expressed fierce criticism of the Qatar project at an annual FIFA meeting in Doha in March on the eve of the tournament draw.

England and Wales were among the associations on Wednesday to acknowledge the progress made in Qatar since the wealthy emirate won the vote to host the World Cup in December 2010.

However, the UK federation said the players will meet some migrant workers who will be invited to their training camp in Al Wakrah.

England also added support already expressed in Germany this week for FIFA and World Cup organizers to compensate the families of construction workers who died or were injured after coming to Qatar to help build stadiums, subway lines and hotels. .

Amnesty International has suggested that FIFA should pay $ 440 million in compensation to match the cash prize paid to Qatar’s 32 teams.

At a German federation event on Monday, an invited gay fan used the platform to urge the Qatari ambassador for his country to abolish anti-homosexuality laws. Ambassador Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani complained that human rights issues distracted from the tournament.

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