If the subject weren’t so serious, it would raise a smile. A divisive symbol of peace, unity and inclusion. A piece of fabric that tears up the authorities and teams participating in the 2022 World Cup. After insisting that their captains can wear it on their biceps during the World Cup, the seven European federations behind the “One love” armband have announced , Monday, November 21, reluctantly give up wearing this symbol against discrimination in Qatar. A country where homosexuality remains illegal.
In a press release, the federations of the Netherlands, Germany, England, Belgium, Denmark, Wales and Switzerland endorsed a decision by the International Football Federation (FIFA), which fell on Monday morning. “FIFA has been clear that it will impose sporting sanctions [un carton jaune] if our captains wore this armband on the field. » If they were ready to pay fines, a sanction usually applied for non-compliance with the rules on outfits, the national authorities ensure “not being able to exhibit [leurs] players to sporting sanctions »and instructed their captains to put away their armbands during the World Cup.
In this showdown, FIFA showed on Monday that it had more of a grip. Its settlement implying that at the World Cup, “captains must wear armbands provided by FIFA”, the governing body of football limits itself to applying it. If she remembers that she is “an inclusive organization that supports all legitimate causes, such as ‘One love'”, FIFA yielded neither to the requests for exceptions filed since September by the seven European nations, nor to the pressure of public opinion, which increased as this controversial World Cup approached. Incidentally, its president, Gianni Infantino, goes against the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which validated this armband in September for League of Nations matches.
“As players, we can’t do anything”
Announced a few hours before the entry into the running of three of the teams concerned – whose captains had reaffirmed the day before their intention to wear this armband – this ban was respected. But hardly appreciated. “FIFA forced us not to wear it. We had to because you don’t want to start such a big game with a yellow cardlamented the Dutchman Dany Klaassen, after his team’s victory against Senegal (2-0). But that doesn’t change anything, we continue to take our initiative. » His partner at the Oranjes, defender Nathan Aké, confirmed: “As players, we can’t do much. If the decision-makers decree that we don’t have the right to wear such an armband, it’s obviously frustrating, but we can’t do anything about it. » Not without risking losing big sportingly. But why wait for athletes to stand up against all injustices when so many others are sailing in the wind of compromise? The whole scope of activism lies in what you are ready to give up, Mohammed Ali or more recently the American football player Colin Kaepernick know something about this.
“I prefer to stay within my framework, that of a playerpleaded the French captain, Hugo Lloris. We are asked to play football, to best represent our countries in sport. » If France had participated in the “One love” movement in the fall, the goalkeeper of the Blues had chosen, before the decision of FIFA, to give up putting it on, by ” respect “ for Qatari culture.
This armband with six colors enclosed in a heart is however in no way a low definition version of the flag that has become the emblem of the LGBTQ + communities. According to its initiators, in any case. Aiming to “defend living together and refrain from all forms of discrimination”, words so vague that it seems unthinkable to oppose them, the “One love” armband evoked a mysterious closed chest. Everyone put what they saw there, since no one knew what it contained: the defense of LGBTQ+ rights, anti-racism, gender equality, the defense of the disabled, or that of migrant workers.
Rainbow hats removed
In this, Gianni Infantino could have pinned this piece of elastic fabric to his arm. “Today, I feel Qatari; today I feel Arab; today, I feel African; today, I feel gay; today, I feel handicapped; today, I feel like a migrant worker”said the powerful boss of FIFA, Saturday, November 19, placing himself resolutely on the side of the discriminated against in his virulent plea in defense of Qatar to open the World Cup. “Today, he clearly does not feel armband”quipped the former England international Gary Lineker on Monday, on the set of the BBC.
About the LGBTQ + communities in Qatar, the FIFA President wanted to be reassuring on Saturday. “I have spoken with the highest authorities in this country on many occasions, and they confirm that everyone is welcome, regardless of religion or sexual orientation. If anyone says otherwise, that’s not the country’s opinion, and clearly not FIFA’s. »
But on Monday, a Welsh LGBTQ+ supporters group reported that its members had been ordered by the security of their team’s match against the United States to remove their rainbow hats stamped with the Welsh dragon, on the pretext that“it was a forbidden symbol in the stadium”. However, at the end of 2020, the general manager of the event, Nasser Al-Khater, affirmed that on this subject, “FIFA has its own guidelines, its own rules and regulations. Whoever they are, we will respect them”. In “the Doha of all” where Emir Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani welcomed the world with open arms on Sunday, the instructions did not reach everyone.
In the flood of criticism, the England coach is swimming against the tide. “I understand FIFA’s position, as it would set a precedent. And it will be extremely difficult then to know where to place the cursor ”, testified Gareth Southgate. If the body stuck to its press release, it confirms that modifying its rules could open the door to many requests for slogans on the armbands. And so that everyone can find their way around, FIFA has drawn “a series of campaigns promoting great universal causes around the issue of positive change”, in particular relayed by the armbands of the captains. Among the topics covered, ecology, education, child protection and the fight against discrimination.
On Monday afternoon, a shower of goals swept over the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. With each of England’s six goals – and Iran’s two – the stadium speakers rumbled with a remix of Freed from Desire, of Gala. An Italian singer notoriously committed against homophobia. Failing to wear the armband he had brought, the captain of the Three Lions, Harry Kane, fell back on one of those offered by FIFA: “No discrimination”.
The second jersey of Belgium retoqué
The controversies swimming in bench, we learned, Monday, November 21, two days before their entry into the running, that FIFA had failed the second jersey of Belgium. A rainbow-toned tunic developed with the outfitter of the Red Devils to symbolize equality, inclusion and freedom, and directly inspired by the Belgian music festival Tomorrowland. To the point of taking up their logo in the word “Love”, inscribed inside the collar of the jersey. But no link with the message sent by the liquettes, according to FIFA: the display of a mark is not authorized by the regulations, the international body has urged the Belgians to cover this registration. Which they did, but opted to play red in all three of their group stage encounters. If this clothing reframing took place during the summer, its revelation on the second day of the World Cup adds to the controversy ” One Love “.