It might only be in its second day but the 2022 Qatar World Cup just keeps on giving… unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Controversy has never left the tournament ever since it “won” the right to play hosts over 12 years ago.
The conflicts have really ramped up in the past week or so, and today (November 21) just a few hours before England were due to kick off against Iran, FIFA again caused a major stir by clarifying that the referees would be instructed to book any captain, or indeed any other player of a competing side, for wearing an armband or any item of kit which had on it a political message of any kind.
This came after the organisation had been approached for permission by seven European nations’ Football Associations (FA’s) to wear a “One Love” armband in support of the LGBTQ+ community, and their rights. The request was put to FIFA several weeks ago, but it has taken them until the day before the first three of those seven teams play their opening games to respond, and it has left a very nasty taste in the mouths of not just the Federations concerned, but many football fans worldwide, as once again those in charge score another spectacular own goal.
Running scared of over-the-top sanctions
The seven countries who intended to wear the rainbow coloured bands with a love heart symbol are: England, Wales, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, and Switzerland. The English start their tournament at 4pm local time and their FA had to make a hurried statement which was apparently a joint communication from all seven, which said that FIFA had made it very clear to all seven nations that were their captains to wear the armbands in question, then they faced a sanction that in all likelihood would have resulted in the player being shown a yellow card, or even told to leave the pitch.
The FA’s felt that it would be grossly unfair to penalize the individual player so after careful consideration they had instructed their captains NOT to wear them. They said they were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband, so were very frustrated by the decision, which they said they believe is unprecedented.
They confirmed that the request was put to FIFA as far back as September and were therefore deeply disappointed that it had taken them until now to respond. After releasing the statement, FA CEO Mark Bullingham said England have been exploring whether there is “another way to show our values.”
Captain and Manager were very keen to wear armband
England captain Harry Kane had said prior to the announcement that he as captain of the team and on behalf of all the staff and organisation, he desperately wanted to wear the armband, a message backed by his manager Gareth Southgate who reiterated that he had made his position clear , which was that they as a team representing the nation, want to wear the band for the entirety of the tournament.
Netherlands initiative supported by others
The ‘One Love’ armbands are part of a campaign to “promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind.” Initially it was kick-started by the Netherlands ahead of Euro 2020, and the other six countries joined their cause. France were also involved for a while, but they backed out saying that they did not want to offend the Qataris… very noble of them!
Non-flexibility should come as no surprise
England have confirmed that they will take the knee before kick-off against Iran, but many will look on this as a weak back down by the FA’s and one more example of FIFA allowing the Qataris to discriminate and actually promote their laws against same-sex relationships. They remain rigid and totally inflexible in their enforcement of their culture, but questions will again be raised as to how these issues were not considered when awarding them the honour of hosting what should be a month long festival of inclusivity.
Golden boot is FIFA’s to lose
FIFA president said just two days ago that he “felt gay” at his press conference, 24 hours later he banned a harmless, but significant armband. They are racking up the own goals and will now be firm favourites to take home the “golden boot”, probably with a record number!