European World Cup teams set to defy FIFA with rainbow armbands

Danish and German captains set to wear rainbow armbands despite last-minute FIFA proposal for alternative armbands.

Gareth Bale of Wales wears a special 'OneLove' captain's armband.
Gareth Bale of Wales sports the 'OneLove' captain's armband which several European teams intend to wear during World Cup matches [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA-EFE]

European football stars say they will press on with plans to wear rainbow-coloured armbands despite a last-minute FIFA proposal for captains of World Cup teams to wear alternative armbands.

Captains, including Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, say they want to wear rainbow designs as part of the Netherlands-led “OneLove” anti-discrimination campaign, as they prepare to compete in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.

Qatar has faced criticism from some countries playing in the 32-team tournament over its rights record on migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.

Tournament organisers say that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome in Qatar.

FIFA, which had not directly addressed the Europeans’ request several weeks ago for permission to wear the heart-shaped logo, unveiled its alternate proposal on Saturday — armbands promoting social messages such as “Football unites the world” and “Share the meal” in a United Nations-backed campaign.

Asked by reporters if he would override the FIFA plan, Neuer replied: “Yes.”

“It’s good that we have the power with other nations in Western Europe,” Neuer said.

England, Wales and Denmark have also joined the campaign.

World Cup rules state that kit such as captains’ armbands must be authorised by FIFA, but Neuer said he would wear the “OneLove” design, even if it meant being issued a fine by football’s world governing body.

The FIFA choice of slogans for group games include “SaveThePlanet”, “ProtectChildren”, and “ShareTheMeal”. “NoDiscrimination”, which aligns with the European teams’ protest, is scheduled to be worn in the quarter-finals.

“These campaigns have taken into account feedback received from our member associations who, like FIFA, are committed to using the power of football to effect positive change around the world,” said a FIFA spokesperson.

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen said his country’s captain Simon Kjaer would be wearing the rainbow armband, too, regardless of potential disciplinary action.

“We as a country are wearing it; our captain will be wearing the OneLove armband,” Eriksen said.

“What the consequences will be I don’t know, but we’ll see.”

Denmark sporting director Peter Moller described the timing of FIFA’s announcement as “a little bit strange”.

“We think the [armband] that we are playing with,” Moller said, “is an even stronger statement.”

Denmark had asked football governing body FIFA to wear shirts carrying the slogan “Human rights for all” during training sessions, but the request was denied because it is a “political message”, according to the federation.

England’s Three Lions are also believed to be ready to support the “OneLove” campaign and are understood to be seeking clarity on whether the rainbow armband and the FIFA ones can be worn together.

The United States team have also shown their support with a rainbow-coloured logo inside their training facility.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies