The captains of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands will not wear the ‘OneLove’ anti-discrimination bracelet during their opening World Cup matches after confirmation that their captains would receive yellow cards if they took part in the initiative.
The announcement came just before their World Cup campaigns were due to begin. The national federations said they were willing to pay a fine for their captains wearing the ‘OneLove’ bracelet, but once it became clear that their captains would be punished, they had to change their plans.
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“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” read a joint statement from the nations. “As national federations, we cannot 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 matches.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaching kit regulations and we were determined to wear the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they are shown a yellow card or even forced to be left the field of play.” .
“We are very frustrated with the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our desire to wear the ‘OneLove’ bracelet to support active inclusion in football, and we have had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed — they are strong advocates of inclusion and will express their support in other ways.”
FIFA announced before the start of the tournament that it would have seven different bracelets available for each round of the competition, each with different social media slogans. But shortly after the seven countries announced they would not be wearing the ‘OneLove’ bracelet on Monday, FIFA announced it would make the ‘No Discrimination’ bracelet available throughout the tournament, when it was previously due to be worn in the quarter-finals. behave.
“Following discussions, FIFA can confirm that its ‘No Discrimination’ campaign has been brought forward from the scheduled quarter-finals to give all 32 captains the opportunity to wear this armband at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar,” the statement said.
“This is in accordance with Article 13.8.1 of the FIFA Equipment Rules, which states, ‘For FIFA Finals competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband issued by FIFA.'”
The Dutch were the first to publicly announce that Virgil van Dijk would not wear the bracelet. A statement from the KNVB on the decision said: “Today, hours before the first match, it has been made clear to us (officially) by FIFA that the captain will receive a yellow card if he wears the ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband. We deeply regret this. that it was not possible to reach a reasonable solution together.
“We stand for the ‘OneLove’ message and will continue to spread it, but our number 1 priority in the World Cup is to win the games. You don’t want the captain to start the game with a yellow card. That’s why It is with a heavy heart that we as a UEFA working group, KNVB and as a team have had to decide to abandon our plan.”
The KNVB adds: “As previously announced, the KNVB would have paid a possible fine for wearing the ‘OneLove’ 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.”
France, which was initially part of the initiative, will also not wear the bracelet. French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet had said he would “prefer” players not to wear the rainbow armbands, while captain Hugo Lloris reiterated the team’s position at a press conference on Monday after previously saying that there was “too much pressure”. on players to protest in Qatar.
“I want to say that FIFA organizes the competition and sets a framework and rules,” said Lloris. “We players are here to play football and represent our country in sporting terms.
“In that respect, the first game is always extremely important and as the defending champion, the expectations for us are even higher.”
Before the announcement was made, Danish manager Kasper Hjulmand said the decision to penalize players for wearing the armband contained a “controversial message”.
“Imagine going onto the field with a clear yellow card to begin with,” said Hjulmand. “That’s not possible. We have to make sure that it’s not up to players to make that decision.
“This isn’t something invented for this occasion. It’s something we’ve done before. I don’t see the problem to be honest. It’s a big question mark for me too.”
Nine countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, agreed in September to wear the bracelet as a symbol of diversity, inclusion and anti-discrimination amid concerns over the human rights record of host country Qatar.
Both FIFA and UEFA usually do not allow teams to make political statements, but European football’s governing body gave dispensation for the armbands to be worn during their UEFA Nations League matches.
FIFA did not clarify their position and, just a day before the World Cup started, launched their own armbands for all captains to wear to promote social awareness. The nine countries, with only seven attending the World Cup, were willing to accept a fine for making the gesture, but there were suggestions that any captain could be shown a yellow card at the kick-off of any game.
And on the day the European countries prepared to start their World Cup campaigns, they made a unilateral decision not to wear the armband for fear of their captains being punished.
The day before England’s opening game against Iran, their captain Harry Kane said he intended to wear it.
“I think as a team, as staff and as an organization, we’ve made it clear that we want to wear the armband,” Kane said on Sunday. “I know the FA is talking to FIFA at the moment and I’m sure we’ll have the decision by tomorrow’s game. I think we’ve made it clear that we want to carry it.”
Dutch manager Louis van Gaal and captain Van Dijk were asked the day before their opener if they would wear the armband during the press conference. Van Gaal, the Dutch manager, responded: “I’m not going to talk about political issues anymore, I’m talking about the upcoming match and I’m going to stop talking about all these issues.
“After inviting the migrants to watch a practice session, I asked all our players to put an end to that and concentrate on the game against Senegal.”
Other countries had confirmed they intended to wear the armband, with both Wales and Germany doing so over the weekend.
Information from Reuters and ESPN’s Julien Laurens contributed to this report.