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European teams have abandoned a plan to wear rainbow armbands at the World Cup

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Several teams competing in the men's World Cup tournament in Qatar have abandoned a plan to wear an armband.
European teams have abandoned a plan to wear rainbow armbands at the World Cup

Several teams competing in the men’s World Cup tournament in Qatar have abandoned a plan to wear an armband.

It comes after governing body FIFA reaffirmed on Sunday night that only select armbands could be worn – with the threat of punishment for non-compliant players.

Here’s what you need to know.

The context

In professional soccer matches, both captains wear an armband to signify their leadership position.

The captain’s armband has been used in multiple professional leagues to highlight social justice causes, such as racial equality and to promote inclusion for the LGBTIQ+ community.

This includes the Major League Soccer competition in the U.S, and the UK’s Premier League, where players have previously worn armbands with the LGBTIQ+ pride flag.

The OneLove armband

In September, several European nations announced they would be wearing the ‘OneLove’ armband in an effort to promote inclusion and stand in opposition to discrimination. The armband and OneLove campaign was initially developed by the Dutch Football Association before being adopted by other teams.

FIFA’s position

The armbands are not endorsed by FIFA. By not wearing FIFA-approved equipment on the field, captains wearing the armband could be fined or penalised with on-field measures, such as a cautionary yellow card.

FIFA announced a batch of approved statements that captains would be able to display on their armbands. Phrases include ‘Football Unites The World’, ‘No Discrimination’, and ‘Bring The Moves’.

LGBTIQ+ rights in Qatar

On announcing its captain would wear the OneLove armband in September, England’s Football Association said it was requesting assurance that “all fans, including those from LGBTIQ+ communities, will be welcome” at the World Cup.

In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison.

Qatari laws around immigration and employment allow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the OneLove armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response.”

The coalition of European teams, in a joint statement

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