FIFA wins captain’s armband dispute

Contrary to what was announced, the European teams, including Switzerland, Germany, England and France, will not wear a special captain’s armband at the World Cup in Qatar.

A power struggle ignited over a small piece of cloth.

Robin Rudel / Imago

It’s just a small piece of cloth, maximum 10 centimeters high, that got the crowd excited at the World Cup in Qatar. Several European countries had announced that their captains would wear a “One Love” armband during the World Cup.

The initiative for this came from the Netherlands, with Switzerland, England, Germany and France joining the campaign. With the captain’s armband, countries have wanted to send a signal against homophobia, racism and anti-Semitism and in favor of human rights. It was actually a harmless action.

But this small piece of cloth triggered a power struggle between the associations involved and FIFA. The governing body of world soccer wanted to avoid the bandage. It is not known if this was due to pressure from World Cup hosts Qatar. Homosexuality is a punishable offense in Qatar, with imprisonment for up to seven years.

It is also unclear what exactly the sanctions would have been like. However, various associations feared that their captains would be warned as soon as they entered the field with the bracelet. After two yellow cards, the player in question will be banned for a World Cup match.

However, there are no tangible instructions in the soccer rules for a warning. It only prohibits “political, religious or personal slogans, messages or images”, the captain’s armband in question should not have fallen into this category.

“We cannot put our players in a situation where they have to face sporting sanctions”

However, fears about sanctions were the reason FIFA won the power struggle. In a joint statement Monday morning, the associations announced that the “One Love” captain’s armbands would be dispensed with. The decision came just hours before England’s game against Iran, England captain Harry Kane would have been the first to play with the armband.

The teams involved announced that they would have been willing to pay a fine. However, the associations did not want to risk suspensions for matches against Manuel Neuer, Granit Xhaka or Harry Kane. There are some indications that FIFA found a passage in the regulations that would have allowed the captain’s armband to be sanctioned with a yellow or red card. And that he threatened the teams with sporting sanctions.

Adrian Arnold, the Swiss association’s media spokesman, says: “We cannot put our players in a situation where they have to face sporting sanctions, including dismissals.” It’s unfortunate that pads are not allowed. “After all, we wanted to spread a positive message,” says Arnold. However, FIFA’s decision does not change the compass of values ​​of the Swiss team. “We will carry the message another time.”

The Dutch federation expressed itself more harshly in a statement: “The fact that FIFA wants to punish us on the pitch is against the spirit of the sport.”

The associations resisted for a long time.

FIFA announced that it will provide the captain’s armbands at the World Cup and that they will be used. The World Cup regulations say so. FIFA president Gianni Infantino also used this argument, saying: “We have clear rules for captain’s armbands.”

Just two days before the start of the tournament, last Friday, FIFA announced what the official captain’s armbands would look like. In the first phase of the World Cup, the motto “Football unites the world” will be on the piece of cloth. Subsequently, the slogan “#NoDiscriminación” will also be used.

The associations resisted Fifa’s orders to the end and insisted on using the “One Love” bandage. The countries involved met on Sunday evening for talks with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. The president of the German Football Association, Bernd Neuendorf, said there was a “controversial debate”. “We found it very strange that we had informed FIFA months ago about the bandage and they didn’t react,” Neuendorf said.

FIFA’s next slip at the start of the World Cup

The dispute over the captain’s armband is just one of a series of mistakes made by FIFA and the host country during the early days of the World Cup. Last Friday, two days before the opening game, Qatar imposed a ban on alcoholic beer around the stadium. The host thus annulled the previously agreed easing of the alcohol ban.

It continued on Saturday with a bizarre performance by FIFA president Infantino. With statements like “Today I feel homosexual, today I feel disabled, today I feel like a migrant worker”, Infantino provoked irritation.

The opening game also caused resentment. On the one hand because the Qatari team was not competitive against Ecuador, on the other hand because many spectators had already left the stadium before the final whistle. This is a big drawback, mainly because what FIFA calls “the greatest World Cup of all time” is only two days old.

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