Doha, Qatar — FIFA’s threat of on-field punishment for players forced World Cup teams to back down on Monday and abandon plans to armband their captains in a rebuke to host country Qatar’s human rights record. Seen as
Just hours before the first players took to the field to wear armbands in support of the “One Love” campaign, football’s governing body warned that they would be shown immediate yellow cards – two of which were suspended for the game. Lead to extraction from and also the next.
It changed the calculus of seven European teams, who were expected to simply be fined. Displays are a violation of FIFA rules.
The standoff was just the latest controversy to threaten to overshadow the game on the field. Since winning the World Cup hosting rights in 2010, conservative Muslim Qatar has faced criticism, including for its treatment of low-wage migrant workers and women and its suppression of freedom of expression. It particularly came under fire for its criminalization of homosexuality.
The decision came three days after the Qatari government suddenly banned the sale of beer in stadiums under pressure, and two days after FIFA president Gianni Infantino delivered an extraordinary tirade defending the host nation’s human rights record. It came later.
The captains of seven European nations pledged to wear the heart-shaped, multi-colored logo on the arm of the “One Love” campaign, which promotes inclusion and diversity in football and society. It set up the possibility for viewers around the world to see a sign of displeasure with the host nation and a breach of FIFA on the arms of England’s Harry Kane, Netherlands’ Virgil van Dijk and Wales’ Gareth Bale on Monday.
But in the end, teams said they couldn’t sacrifice success on the field.
“As national federations, we cannot put our players in a position where they face sporting sanctions, including bookings,” the seven football federations said in a joint statement, referring to the yellow cards.
The captains of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark have also pledged to wear the armband in the coming days.
“Our No. 1 priority at the World Cup is to win games,” the Dutch football federation said in a separate statement. “Then you don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card.”
The risk of a second yellow, in which one player will be sent off for the rest of the game and banned for the next, is particularly difficult in a tournament where teams have just three games before the knockout rounds begin. play
National football federations and fan associations criticized FIFA for the decision to fine the players. Danish Football Federation CEO Jacob Jensen told Danish broadcaster TV2 that the organization was “extremely disappointed with FIFA” and German Football Federation president Bernd Neuendorf called it “another low blow”.
“FIFA has today banned a statement for diversity and human rights – these are the values it is committed to in its rules,” Neuendorf told reporters in Qatar. “From our point of view, it is disappointing and, I think, an unprecedented move in the history of the World Cup.”
International players’ union FIFPRO described FIFA’s move as “disappointing”.
“Players should have the right to express their support for human rights on and off the field of play and we will support anyone who uses their platform to do so,” the union said. Union said. “We maintain that the rainbow flag is not a political statement but an affirmation of equality and thus a universal human right.”
England’s Football Supporters’ Association said it felt betrayed by FIFA.
“Today we feel insulted by an organization that has shown its true values by handing out yellow cards to players and red cards to tolerance,” the FSA said.
The Belgian federation expressed disappointment that FIFA did not act quickly to resolve the problem, which began two months ago, only to be contained on the morning of the three teams’ matches. The Belgian federation said the Europeans “tried several times to avoid extending the measure… but we have not received an answer”.
Girchatan Sindhu of the Geneva-based International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association said FIFA had put the players in a “very, very awkward position”.
“You have tied the hands of the national teams. They are there to compete,” he said.
He also criticized Infantino’s speech on Saturday in which the football chief defended Qatar and lectured Europeans who have criticized the emirate’s human rights record. In that speech, Infantino said: “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker.”
Sandhu took issue with Infantino’s choice of words, saying: “You don’t feel gay. You’re gay.”
It was not immediately clear what impact, if any, the decision to arm Qatar’s authoritarian government would have. The government and its Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the World Cup, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The European plans breached FIFA’s general rules on World Cup regulations and team equipment in its games.
“For FIFA finals competitions, the captain of each team must wear a captain’s armband provided by FIFA,” its equipment regulations state.
The football body’s proposal, announced on Saturday, was for captains to wear armbands with socially conscious, albeit generic, slogans. In this presentation, armbands reading “No Discrimination” – one of the slogans chosen by European teams – will only appear at the quarter-final stage.
On Monday, he offered a compromise, saying the captains of all 32 teams “will have the opportunity” to wear armbands with the slogan “No Discrimination” in group games.
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