FIFA came under pressure on Wednesday from several European soccer associations who want their captains to wear rainbow heart armbands during the World Cup in Qatar to fight discrimination.
The last two World Cup winners, France and Germany, were among eight of the 13 European football teams traveling to Qatar to join the “One Love” campaign, which started in the Netherlands. The Dutch national team will play against Qatar in Group A on November 29.
FIFA rules prohibit teams from bringing their own armband designs to the World Cup and require them to use equipment provided by the governing body.
The armbands are the latest battleground for players to deliver political messages at the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexual acts are illegal and the treatment of migrant workers in construction projects for the tournament has been the subject of a decade of controversy.
“Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams sends a clear message as the world watches,” England captain Harry Kane said in a statement.
The Swiss Football Association said it wanted captain Granit Xhaka to wear an armband with “a heart in different colors that represents the diversity of humanity”.
Harry Kane wears the rainbow armband in Qatar. #ENG players meet migrant workers when they arrive at the World Cup. The FA is lobbying FIFA to update Qatar’s new laws on migrant workers and compensate for “any injuries or deaths” at the World Cup stadium. pic.twitter.com/H0qLz7mMiu
A huggable platform
Footballers have embraced their platform to make a statement in recent years. Taking a knee on the pitch before Premier League games has been routine for two seasons following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a US police officer.
FIFA supported the kneeling and must now decide whether to back some of its most influential member federations in a gesture that could embarrass Qatar.
FIFA did not immediately comment on the request.
European football’s governing body UEFA has announced its full support for the OneLove campaign, which was originally developed by UEFA [Dutch federation].”
The armbands will also be worn at UEFA Nations League games this week, including by both captains when Belgium host Wales on Thursday.
UEFA allowed Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to wear a rainbow captain’s armband at last year’s European Championships, including against tournament co-hosts Hungary, where lawmakers passed anti-gay laws during the tournament.
Qatar says it welcomes fans from all walks of life
The armband campaign was launched a day after Qatar’s emir spoke at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, promising a World Cup without discrimination.
“The people of Qatar 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 One Love human rights campaign also included Belgium and Denmark. Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Spain did not participate in the five European World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday.
However, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski – a two-time FIFA World Player of the Year – said this week that he would take the blue and yellow armband of the Ukrainian flag with him to Qatar.
Poland refused to play 2018 World Cup host Russia in March. Prior to the game, FIFA and UEFA banned Russia’s national teams from international competitions due to the country’s incursion into Ukraine.
Legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko gave Robert Lewandowski a wristband in the colors of the Ukrainian flag to bring to the World Cup 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/7ZyZLrlHKN
Qatar is undergoing a review of labor law reforms
The armband campaign was launched as a panel of UEFA member federations monitored Qatar’s progress on labor law reforms and other human rights ahead of the tournament.
That panel includes the Norwegian Football Association, whose president Lise Klaveness sharply criticized the Qatari project at FIFA’s annual meeting in Doha in March, on the eve of the draw for the tournament.
However, the FA said the players will meet some migrant workers who will be invited to its training camp in Al Wakrah.
England also added support already expressed in Germany this week for FIFA and World Cup organizers to pay compensation to the families of construction workers who came to build stadiums, metro lines and hotels in Qatar.
Amnesty International has recommended that FIFA pay $440 million in compensation, equal to the prize money paid to Qatar’s 32 teams.
At an event at the German Confederation on Monday, an invited gay fan used the platform to call on Qatar’s ambassador to call on his country to repeal its anti-homosexuality laws. Ambassador Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani complained that human rights issues were distracting from the tournament.