European football teams are on a collision course with Fifa as a number of captains said they would wear rainbow armbands to promote inclusion when their games kick off at the World Cup today, with some teams worried that players could be given yellow cards.
Captains of England, Wales and the Netherlands said over the weekend that they planned to wear the One Love armbands in their matches on Monday to send a message against discrimination while playing in Qatar, a country where homosexuality is illegal.
Speaking on Sunday, England captain Harry Kane said: “We’ve made it clear as a team, the staff and an organisation that we want to wear the armband.”
But with hours to go before the first European team takes the field, football associations were still seeking clarity from Fifa over whether wearing the armband could result in punishments on the pitch for players, such as a yellow card for captains at kick-off.
“We’re very keen to wear the armband,” Mark Bullingham, chief executive of England’s Football Association, told the BBC on Monday morning. “If the sporting sanctions threat is real, then we need to look at that, we need to step back and work out if there’s another way in which we can show our values.”
The Fifa rules state: “For Fifa Final Competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by Fifa.” Football associations had been expecting to pay a fine for breaching the rules, but are now concerned that players could face punishments on the pitch. Receiving a yellow card at kick-off would put players at heightened risk of being sent off during a match.
Noel Mooney, head of the Football Association of Wales, said the situation was “fluid”. “The information is only coming through to us at this very late hour,” he told the BBC’s Today programme. “We’re still in discussion and we’ll see what the next few hours bring.”
The issue over whether European captains will be allowed to wear their preferred armbands has swirled for months in the run-up to the tournament. Requests by football associations for permission from Fifa to wear One Love armbands were made months ago, but there has been no response.
Instead, football’s governing body announced its own campaign armbands on Saturday, the day before the tournament began. Carrying slogans such as “Football Unites the World”, and “Share the meal”, the UN-backed initiative was launched with a short video including messages from superstars Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Belgium are also part of the Dutch-led One Love campaign.
“We as a country are wearing it,” said Christian Eriksen, Denmark midfielder, at a press conference on Sunday. “What the consequences will be I don’t know, but we’ll see.”
France were also part of the One Love campaign ahead of the tournament. However, French captain Hugo Lloris has indicated he is unlikely to wear the armband, saying at a team press conference: “We need the agreement of Fifa.”
“When we are in France, when we welcome foreigners, we often want them to follow our rules, to respect our culture, and I will do the same when I go to Qatar, quite simply,” Lloris said. “I can agree or disagree with their ideas, but I have to show respect.”