World Cup team captains respond to backlash over scrapped OneLove armbands

World Cup team captains are facing a backlash after ditching their plans to promote inclusion with OneLove, rainbow armbands. England and Wales team captains are now hitting back as they say players were afraid of getting booked by FIFA if they wore such armbands. Now, the captains say they are wearing FIFA-approved armbands which say, “No Discrimination.”

According to BBC, critics of the captains who changed their armbands to FIFA-approved ones, have accused the teams of having no backbones. But, players say they set out to play football and not to get a yellow card. Netherlands skipper Virgil Van Dijk told Dutch broadcaster NOS, that he just wants to play football but not at the expense of a yellow card.

However, the seven European nations which included Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium, issued a statement that said they were willing to pay fines for their captains wearing the armband but could not risk their players being booked.

Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen said he didn’t feel comfortable talking about the incident over fears of repercussions.

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“If you make a statement by wearing the armband that would mean punishing yourself.”

The media director of the German football federation also echoed his concerns by saying that the seven nations were faced with “extreme blackmail” leading them to drop their plans of wearing the armbands.

On the ground, Laura McAllister, a gay woman and ex-Wales football captain, says she was asked to remove her rainbow bucket hat as she entered the World Cup stadium in Qatar, noting that the request was quite heavy-handed.

“It was pretty heavy-handed… It was quite intimidating. I’m experienced enough to cope with it but if it had been a young person, a young girl who hadn’t been prepared for that, it would have been a very unpleasant and intimidating experience. I certainly wasn’t going to give it up. It’s an important symbol of everything that we’re about in Welsh football at the moment and hopefully the wider nation.

“We’re here to live our own values as a nation and with Wales being in the World Cup for the first time in six decades, it’s important to show what our country’s all about, and that is about inclusion and tolerance and diversity. We need to speak for the LGBT people at home who didn’t feel able to come to Doha because of the regime and its position on gay rights. We’re all horribly compromised by being here so make no mistake, so by being here we also need to make sure we don’t compromise on our values.”

She also says that FIFA backpedalled on allowing the rainbow symbol in the stadium, saying it was the complete opposite of that. She says it was contrary to everything she was told to expect and it was disappointing.

The Netherlands began the OneLove campaign before Euro 2020 to promote diversity and inclusion. It was meant to be a message against discrimination but since Qatar has outlawed same-sex relationships and their promotion, the captains’ efforts have been met with fears and alleged threats by FIFA.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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