20 November was Qatar’s big day. The footballing world gazed upon the Al-Bayt Stadium to watch a game that the vast majority would have no interest in viewing if it wasn’t the World Cup opener.
The hosts fell flat under the spotlight and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Ecuador. It was a contest ridiculed for its tame atmosphere and one that we will all forget in a hurry.
The controversy surrounding the tournament has failed to dissipate despite the football getting underway, with discussions about campaigns and captain’s armbands being rife.
England were one of several European nations poised to allow their skipper to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband in Qatar, but FIFA’s threats have seen them back down. Here’s everything you need to know about the armband debacle.
The OneLove captain’s armband is part of a campaign “to promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind”.
The armbands have been worn to promote inclusivity within a country which has laws against same-sex relationships. The initiative began in the Netherlands and has been supported by several European nations including England.
The captains of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales were also poised to wear the armband in Qatar.
FIFA do not approve of the armband. Back in September, a number of European nations wrote to the governing body to indicate their intention of wearing the armband for the rest of 2022 but FIFA did not respond.
FIFA, who said on Saturday that they are “committed to using the power of football to effect positive change around the world”, aren’t allowing captains to wear the OneLove armband because “the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA” for FIFA competitions.
However, the context of Qatar’s LGBTQ+ rights – or lack thereof – has made the issue much more contentious.
What are the alternative armbands approved by FIFA?
FIFA launched their rival to the OneLove armband on the eve of the World Cup. They confirmed it was partnering with United Nations agencies to run social campaigns throughout the tournament, with a different campaign for each round.
For example, #FootballUnitesTheWorld is the ‘theme’ for Matchday 1 of the group stage. FIFA also announced that they will allow #NoDiscrimination armbands to be worn throughout the tournament.
If any nation opted to defy FIFA, the world governing body would open a disciplinary case but the financial punishment wouldn’t be very severe. Reports have suggested that FIFA could only impose fines of approximately $10,500 (£8,894) on some of its wealthiest member federations.
The European nations prepared to wear the OneLove armband in Qatar weren’t too concerned with potentially being fined. However, FIFA then threatened sporting sanctions including an automatic yellow card for the captain wearing the armband.
Harry Kane reiterated his desire to wear the armband ahead of England’s first group game against Iran, but the European nations in support of the initiative have now backed down after FIFA threatened automatic yellow cards.
In a statement issued alongside Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Wales, the football Association said: “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.”
Thus, Kane isn’t expected to don the OneLove armband on Monday afternoon.