GENEVA (AP) – FIFA came under pressure on Wednesday from several European football federations who want their captains to wear an armband with a rainbow heart design during World Cup games in Qatar to campaign against discrimination.
France and Germany, the previous two World Cup champions, were among eight of the 13 European football teams moving to Qatar, which took part in the “One Love” campaign that started in the Netherlands. The Dutch team will play Qatar in Group A on 29 November.
FIFA’s rules prohibit teams from bringing their own armband designs to the World Cup and insist they must use equipment provided by the governing body.
The armbands are the latest battleground for players to push political messages related to the World Cup held in Qatar, where homosexual acts are illegal and the treatment of migrant workers building projects for the tournament has been a decades-old controversy.
“On behalf of our teams wearing armbands together will send a clear message when the world is watching,” England captain Harry Kane said in a statement.
The Swiss Football Federation said it wanted Captain Granit Zaka to wear an armband, on which “you can see a heart with different colors that represent the diversity of humanity.”
Soccer players have embraced their platform to make statements in recent years. Kneeling on the field before Premier League games was a routine for two seasons in the United States following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer.
FIFA endorsed taking a knee and it is now up to it to decide whether to support some of its most influential member federations in an embarrassing gesture to Qatar.
“A request has also been submitted to FIFA asking permission be granted for armbands to be worn throughout the FIFA World Cup,” the Welsh Football Federation said in a statement.
FIFA did not immediately comment on the request.
Armbands could be worn at games organized by UEFA in the Nations League this week, which includes both captains when Belgium host Wales on Thursday.
The campaign for the armband was launched a day after the Emir of Qatar promised a World Cup without discrimination at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“The people of Qatar 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.
Belgium and Denmark are also among the eight European teams supporting the “One Love” campaign for human rights. The five European qualifiers for the World Cup that did not participate on Wednesday were Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Spain.
However, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski – a two-time FIFA World Player of the Year – said this week he would be carrying an armband in the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s flag to Qatar.
Poland refused to play 2018 World Cup hosts Russia in a playoff match in March. Before the game, FIFA and European football body UEFA banned Russian teams from international competitions because the country invaded Ukraine.
The campaign for the armband emerged after a panel of UEFA member associations monitored progress in Qatar on labor law reforms and other human rights prior to the tournament.
That panel includes the Norwegian Football Federation, whose president Lise Klavnes sharply criticized the Qatari project at an annual FIFA meeting in Doha in March on the eve of the tournament draw.
England and Wales were among federations on Wednesday acknowledging progress made in Qatar as the wealthy emirate won a vote on hosting the World Cup in December 2010.
However, the English federation said the players would meet some migrant workers who would be invited to its training camp in Al Waqarah.
England this week added to the support already expressed in Germany for FIFA and World Cup organizers who came to Qatar to pay compensation to the families of construction workers who helped build stadiums, metro lines and hotels had come.
Amnesty International has suggested that FIFA should pay $440 million to match the prize money being given to 32 teams in Qatar.
At a German Federation event on Monday, an invited fan who is gay used the platform to urge Qatar’s ambassador that his country should abolish laws against homosexuality. The ambassador, Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, complained that human rights issues were distracting from the tournament.
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