European Teams Abandon OneLove Armbands Ahead of World Cup in Qatar

The armbands were seen as a silent protest against the host country's anti-LGTBQ laws.

The captains of several European soccer teams have backtracked on wearing OneLove armbands during the World Cup in Qatar, the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East.

In a joint statement released on Monday (Nov. 21), the football associations of England, Wales, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany said FIFA (soccer's global governing body) will issue yellow cards to the captains if they wear the armbands: FIFA "been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play," said the statement.

“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," the statement continued. “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."

The OneLove campaign was started by the Dutch Football Association in 2020 to “express their support for unification of all people” and "condemn all forms of discrimination." Back in September, it was announced that nine other nations, including France, Sweden, and Norway would support the campaign in upcoming matches, including the World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 UEFA Nations League.

The OneLove armband features a 1 with a rainbow of colors behind it, all enclosed in a heart shape, designed to promote LGBTQ rights and acceptance. The armbands were seen as a form of protest against the World Cup host nation Qatar, where homosexuality is still illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison.

However, a Qatar government official recently told CNN in a statement: “Everyone is welcome in Qatar. Our track record has shown that we have warmly welcomed all people regardless of background.” But a report from the Human Rights Watch revealed that as of recently as September that Qatari security forces were arresting LGBTQ people and "subjecting them to ill-treatment in detention.”

“Since 2010 we have been raising questions about the suitability of Qatar as a World Cup host,” said the Football Supporters’ Association in a statement. “Everyone could see this coming and it’s astonishing that, on the morning of England’s World Cup opener, FIFA are censoring players… who wish to share a positive message.”

Several European captains will not be donning the OneLove armbands, but the US Men’s National Team will be showing its support of the LGBTQ community by "using a USA logo adorned with the LGBT Pride flag colors at the team’s training center in Ar-Rayyan, Qatar, ahead of the World Cup," reports Reuters.

While England team captain Harry Kane did not wear the OneLove armband during Monday's World Cup game against Iran, he did sport a black band with a yellow heart, with ‘no discrimination’ written across it.

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