Another talking point has been added to the list of controversial topics at the Qatar 2022 World Cup: OneLove armbands.
The OneLove campaign was started in 2020 by the Dutch Football Association to promote inclusivity and unification. A handful of European nations planned to wear the OneLove armband. The OneLove armband features a multi-colored heart with a “1” in between the words “One” and “Love”.
The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, England, Wales, Switzerland and Denmark are the teams present at the World Cup who planned to participate in the campaign and wear the armband during their matches in Qatar, where homosexuality and same-sex relationships are illegal.
The football associations (FA) of those respective teams informed FIFA of their intention to wear the armbands during the World Cup back in September, but FIFA apparently never responded.
Then, hours before England’s World Cup opener began against Iran, FIFA threatened to impose sporting sanctions — which FIFA reportedly did not specify — on teams who wore the OneLove armband. FIFA also threatened to give yellow cards to captains who wore the armband.
Those teams were prepared to accept and pay fines, but did not want to risk their captains accumulating yellow cards and missing out on games.
The aforementioned FAs put out this joint statement on Monday:
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.
According to the Athletic, the Danish FA (DBU) is taking it a step farther and is prepared to hold talks with other UEFA FAs regarding a blanket withdrawal from FIFA due to this situation. Additionally, the DBU will not formally support FIFA President Gianni Infantino in his reelection bid.
According to the report, the DBU was “considering leaving FIFA, and were willing to discuss this with all 55 member states of the organisation.”
“It is not a decision that has been made now. We have been clear about this for a long time. We have been discussing it in the Nordic region since August,” DBU chairman Jesper Moller said.
“I’ve thought it again. I imagine that there may be challenges if Denmark leaves on its own. But let us see if we cannot have a dialogue on things. (The Athletic)
Germany head coach Hansi Flick and the German FA (DFB) have taken a stronger position against FIFA’s stance on the matter. Prior to kickoff between Germany and Japan, the German starting XI put their hands over their mouths to protest FIFA’s stance. The on-field protest was accompanied by this statement from the DFB:
It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us.— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) November 23, 2022
Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position. pic.twitter.com/tiQKuE4XV7
Flick again on the armband: "If it was only a yellow card, that would have been okay. But FIFA didn't specify the sanctions. It's a shame that our fight for human rights was not allowed to stand up. I think it's a shame that you can no longer stand up for human rights." pic.twitter.com/pNEykqyGNH— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) November 22, 2022
It seems like it was the ambiguity around FIFA’s threatened sanctions that made DFB fall in line with the demands. The DFB described this as “extreme blackmail”, and DFB representative Stefan Simon said the DFP has taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, according to the Telegraph. This is largely in part due to REWE, one of the largest supermarket brands in Germany, cutting ties with the FA over the decision to not wear the armband.
Other brands that have deals with the DFB have also been called on to react to the decision, leaving the DFB with more strained relationships due to FIFA’s approach to the OneLove armband campaign.