FIFA Threatened ‘Massive Sporting Sanctions’ in Row Over LGBT Armbands

Posted on: November 24, 2022, 09:00h. 

Last updated on: November 24, 2022, 10:18h.

FIFA threatened the England soccer team with “massive sporting sanctions” ahead of its opening game against Iran on Monday if any of its players wore “OneLove” armbands, as planned.

Harry Kane’s arm sporting the OneLove armband during a game against Italy in September. (Image: Getty)

Seven soccer federations, from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, had agreed their teams would sport the rainbow bands to protest against the treatment of LGBT people in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

As the first of these nations to take the field at the World Cup, England’s captain Harry Kane was expected to wear the armband. Instead, he wore a band backing FIFA’s own “No Discrimination” campaign.

The only team making any kind of demonstration was Iran, whose players refused to sing the national anthem. This was in solidarity with the women-led protests that erupted in the country after the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September.

‘Extreme Blackmail’

FIFA’s threats were revealed by the German Football Association’s (DFB) media director Steffen Simon in an interview on Deutschlandfunk radio. Simon said that the DFB and other football associations had decided to pull the armbands “in solidarity” with the English team. He described FIFA’s actions as “extreme blackmail.”

“The tournament director went to the English team and talked about multiple rule violations and threatened [it] with massive sporting sanctions without specifying what these would be,” he said.

We lost the armband, and it is very painful, but we are the same people as before with the same values. We are not impostors who claim they have values and then betray them,” he said. “I can understand the disappointment. We had the choice between the plague and cholera.”

Kane was criticized at home for capitulating too easily. But at the time, it was understood that a player would simply receive a yellow card for wearing the armband, rather than “massive,” albeit unspecified, sanctions.

The English Football Association (FA) has not commented on the matter. But the DFB said in a statement to Reuters that it was “in fundamental opposition with FIFA.”

Western ‘Hypocrisy’

German players chose to cover their mouths during the team photo before their first game against Japan on Wednesday in protest against FIFA’s armband ban. Meanwhile, Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, wore the OneLove armband as she sat beside FIFA president Gianni Infantino watching the game.

On the eve of the World Cup, Infantino accused the Western world of “hypocrisy” and of delivering a “one-sided moral lesson” in its reporting about Qatar’s human rights record.

Article 4 of FIFA’s own statutes state: “Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of race, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, disability, religion, political opinion or wealth, birth or sexual orientation is strictly prohibited.”