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OneLove campaign hit by threat of FIFA sanctions

James Thorogood
November 21, 2022

Nations planning to wear a rainbow-themed One Love captain’s armband decided to back down on Monday. The seven countries have cited the threat of disciplinary action from world governing body FIFA for the decision.

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer
Image: Ulmer/Teamfoto/IMAGO

The threat of sanctions have resulted in the seven European nations who had signed up to the One Love campaign, including England and Germany, announcing their decision to abandon plans to wear the rainbow-themed captain’s armbands. 

The joint-statement, released just hours before England’s game opening 2022 World Cup group game against Iran was due to kick-off, cited the threat of disciplinary action from world football governing body FIFA as the reason for the decision.

Having previously outlined that they were prepared to face fines, the statement highlighted that "FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play."

"We cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play." 

Conflicting sentiments

FIFA president Gianni Infantino opened the World Cup with a message of inclusion before Qatar became the first host nation to lose their opening game of the tournament. "Dear friends, welcome. Welcome, to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Welcome to a celebration of football because football unites the world."

Yet the latest decision from FIFA doesn’t share the same sentiment with leading European captains such as Harry Kane and Manuel Neuer no longer able to make a free choice. 

"We are experiencing an unprecedented event in World Cup history," said German Football Association President Bernd Neuendorf. "We will not carry out the confrontation brought about by FIFA on the back of Manuel Neuer." 

When asked previously, Neuer had said he was "not afraid of consequences" as he had "the support of the German FA (DFB) and our DFB president." As Neuendorf pointed out though, "part of the problem is that we don't know what sanctions would have been imposed" had they pushed ahead with the idea.

Showing inclusion the yellow card?

The Football Supporters' Association said they felt "betrayed" by the decision. "Today we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance.

"Never again should a World Cup be handed out solely on the basis of money and infrastructure. No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women's rights, workers' rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup."

The One Love campaign, an idea by the Netherlands, is designed to promote inclusion and equality at the World Cup in Qatar and beyond. The other nations that were due to wear the armband in Qatar were England, Belgium, Denmark, France, Switzerland and Wales. 

Inclusive "within a framework"

Qatar and FIFA President Infantino have both reiterated that everyone will be welcome in the country despite the fact same-sex relationships are a criminal offense in Qatar. There is also no recognition of civil partnerships in the Gulf state.

FIFA had been informed about their plans to wear the rainbow-themed armband in Qatar as early as September. On Monday they stressed in a follow-up statement that it is "an inclusive organization 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." 

FIFA offered its own compromise Monday by saying captains of all 32 teams "will have the opportunity" to wear an armband with the slogan "No Discrimination" in the group games.

FIFA's original offer Saturday was that "NoDiscrimination", the only one of its chosen slogan aligned with the European teams' wish would appear only at the quarterfinal stage.

jt/mds (dpa, AP) 

DW's Danya Barsalona in Qatar

James Thorogood Sports reporter and editor, host of Project FußballJMThorogood
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