‘With a heavy heart’ – European teams abandon One Love armband protest under FIFA pressure

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The UEFA working group of countries, who had originally planned to wear a One Love captain’s armband during the 2022 World Cup, have now decided to reverse their decision citing FIFA’s call to introduce sanctions for doing so.

The armband furore blew up over the weekend when FIFA announced that they would be introducing their own band, highlighting a number of key issues.

However, that put them directly at odds with an initiative organised by the Netherlands to wear the One Love armband – which included a “heart containing colours representative of all backgrounds”. Same-sex relationships are criminalised in Qatar.

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It was later reported that FIFA would consider action such as booking the captains for not wearing the designated armbands – this has now been officially confirmed by the Dutch FA.

And now those European countries have decided to reverse course.

The Dutch FA were the first to release their statement before a joint one from the Football Associations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland.

FA statement in full

“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 were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.

“We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”

Dutch FA statement in full

“The KNVB and the players of the Dutch national team would like to spread a positive message with One Love, for connection and against all forms of discrimination. We want to do that at the World Cup together with England, Wales, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark.

“The UEFA working group, of which the KNVB is a part, asked FIFA on September 19 to embrace the One Love captain’s armband. Today, hours before the first game, it has been made clear to us from FIFA (officially) that the captain will receive a yellow card if he wears the One Love captain’s armband. We deeply regret that it was not possible to reach a reasonable solution together.

“We stand for the One Love message and will continue to spread it, but our number one priority at the World Cup is to win the games. Then you don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card. That is why it is with a heavy heart that we as a UEFA working group, KNVB and as a team had to decide to abandon our plan.

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

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To celebrate the 2022 World Cup, we have launched our new bracket game, where you can give your predictions, challenge friends and create mini-leagues.

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