FIFA came under pressure on Wednesday from several European soccer federations to want their captain to wear a rainbow heart-shaped armband during the World Cup in Qatar for their campaign against discrimination.
France and Germany, the last two World Cup champions, were among eight of the 13 European soccer teams that went to Qatar and joined the “One Love” campaign, which began in the Netherlands. The Netherlands will play Qatar in Group A on November 29.
FIFA rules prohibit teams from bringing their own captaincy designs to the World Cup and insist they must use equipment provided by the board of directors.
Armbands are the latest battleground for players to spread political messages linked to the World Cup being hosted in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal and the treatment of migrant workers to build projects for the tournament has been a matter of controversy for a decade.
“Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching,” England captain Harry Kane said in a statement.
The Swiss Football Association said it wanted captain Granit Xhaka to wear a badge “You can see a heart in assorted colors that represent the diversity of humanity.”
Footballers have embraced their platform to make statements in recent years. Kneeling on the field has been a routine before Premier League matches for two seasons after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by a police officer in the United States.
FIFA has endorsed taking the knee and now has to decide whether to back some of its most influential member associations in a gesture that could embarrass Qatar.
FIFA did not immediately comment on the request.
UEFA said it “fully supports the OneLove campaign, which was initially developed by UEFA [Dutch federation]. “
Hand armbands will also be worn at UEFA-organised matches in the Nations League this week, including by the two captains when Belgium host Wales on Thursday.
Previously, UEFA allowed German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to wear the rainbow captain’s armband at last year’s European Championship matches, including against tournament hosts Hungary where lawmakers passed anti-gay legislation during the tournament.
Qatar says it will welcome fans from all walks of life
The campaign for armbands kicked off a day after the Emir of Qatar spoke at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and promised to host the World Cup without discrimination.
“The Qatari people will welcome football fans from all walks of life with open arms,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said in a speech to other world leaders.
The eight European teams supporting the “One Love” campaign for human rights also included Belgium and Denmark. The five matches that did not participate in the World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday were Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Spain.
However, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski – twice world player of the year – said this week he would take the blue and yellow badge of the Ukraine flag to Qatar.
Poland refused to face Russia, the 2018 World Cup host nation, in a playoff match in March. Before the match, FIFA and UEFA banned Russian teams from participating in international competitions because the country had invaded Ukraine.
Legendary striker Andrei Shevchenko gave Robert Lewandowski a badge in the colors of the Ukrainian flag to take him to the World Cup 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/7ZyZLrlHKN أ>
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Qatar under review over labor law reforms
The campaign for armbands kicked off as a committee of UEFA’s member associations monitored progress in Qatar on labor law reforms and other human rights ahead of the tournament.
That committee includes the Norwegian Football Association, whose president Liz Clavens harshly criticized the Qatari project at an annual FIFA meeting in March in Doha on the eve of the tournament draw.
However, the FA said the players will meet some migrant workers who will be invited to its training camp in Al Wakrah.
England also added support already expressed in Germany this week to the FIFA and World Cup organizers to compensate the families of construction workers who came to Qatar to help build stadiums, metro lines and hotels.
Amnesty International has proposed that FIFA pay $440 million in compensation to equal the prize money paid to 32 teams in Qatar.
At a German Football Association event on Monday, an invited fan who is gay used the platform to urge the Qatari ambassador that his country repeal anti-homosexual laws. Ambassador Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani complained that human rights issues were distracting attention from the tournament.