GENEVA – FIFA came under pressure on Wednesday from several European football federations who want their captains to wear a rainbow hearts armband during World Cup matches in Qatar to campaign against discrimination.
France and Germany, the last two world champions, were among eight of the 13 European football teams to travel to Qatar and join the One Love campaign that began in the Netherlands. The Dutch team plays Qatar in Group A on November 29th.
FIFA rules prohibit teams from bringing their own armband designs to the World Cup and insist they must use equipment provided by the governing body.
TIED TOGETHER: World Cup 2022: Who is in Team USA?
Bracelets are the latest battleground for players to spread political messages related to the World Cup being 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.
“Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message as the world watches,” England captain Harry Kane said in a statement.
The Swiss Football Association said it wanted captain Granit Xhaka to wear an armband with “a heart of different colors representing the diversity of humanity”.
TIED TOGETHER: World Cup 2022 schedule: full list of groups and matches in Qatar
Soccer players have used their platform to make statements in recent years. Taking a knee on the field before Premier League games was routine for two seasons following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in the United States.
FIFA backed the kneeling and must now decide whether to support some of its most influential member associations in a gesture that could embarrass Qatar.
“An application has also been made to FIFA asking that the armbands be allowed to be worn throughout the FIFA World Cup,” the Football Association of Wales said in a statement.
FIFA did not immediately comment on the request.
TIED TOGETHER: Why Nike Not Worrying About Reaction To New USMNT World Cup Kits
The armbands can be worn at UEFA-organized Nations League matches this week, including by both captains when Belgium host Wales on Thursday.
The campaign for the armbands was launched a day after the Emir of Qatar delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York pledging a world cup without discrimination.
“The Qatari people 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 were also among the eight European teams supporting the One Love human rights campaign. The five European qualifiers for the World Cup who did not take part on Wednesday were Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Spain.
TIED TOGETHER: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 schedule revealed by FOX Sports
However, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski – two-time FIFA World Player of the Year – said this week he would take an armband in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag to Qatar.
Poland refused to play against Russia, hosts of the 2018 World Cup, in a playoff game in March. Before the game, FIFA and European football’s governing body UEFA banned Russian teams from international competitions because the country invaded Ukraine.
The armband campaign came about as a group of UEFA member associations monitored progress in Qatar on labor law reforms and other human rights ahead of the tournament.
That body also includes the Football Association of Norway, whose president, Lise Klaveness, delivered a scathing criticism of the Qatar project at an annual FIFA meeting in Doha in March, on the eve of the tournament’s draw.
England and Wales were among associations on Wednesday to recognize the progress made in Qatar since the wealthy emirate won elections to host the World Cup in December 2010.
However, the FA said the players would meet with some migrant workers who will be invited to its training camp in Al Wakrah.
England also added their support, expressed earlier this week in Germany, for the organizers of FIFA and the World Cup to compensate the families of construction workers who came to Qatar to help build stadiums, metro lines and hotels to help.
Amnesty International has suggested that FIFA should pay US$440 million in reparations to match the prize money being paid to Qatar’s 32 teams.
At an event organized by the German Association on Monday, an invited gay fan used the platform to urge the Qatari ambassador that his country should abolish laws against homosexuality. The ambassador, Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, complained that human rights issues were distracting from the tournament.