England and Wales had planned to wear their “OneLove” armbands in support of the LGBTQ community in defiance of FIFA and World Cup host country Qatar but caved under threat of yellow card punishment at the last minute.
The BBC’s Alex Scott, however, did not.
While English striker Harry Kane reneged on his vow to wear his armband on the pitch, Scott wore her’s on the sidelines.
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Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and demonstrations of support for the LGBTQ community, specifically in the form of wearing the “OneLove” armband, have been made illegal by FIFA.
As recently as this weekend, England manager Gareth Southgate had expressed determination to continue wearing the armband despite the cultural confrontation with the Muslim host nation.
“It’s what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time,” Southgate said.
“We feel this is the biggest (stage), and we think it’s a strong statement that will go around the world for young people, in particular, to see that inclusivity is very important,” he added.
Southgate’s star player, Harry Kane, backed his manager.
“We have made it clear as a team, staff, and organization that we want to wear the armband. I know the FA are talking to FIFA, and by game time, they will have had their decision,” Kane said, according to the Daily Mail.
However, the tension reached a tipping point after FIFA threatened to increase the punishment for wearing the armband. Initially, the international football governing body had threatened to merely fine teams for wearing the armband. Though, after strong public stances in favor of the bands were taken by England, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Wales, FIFA upped the ante by promising “sporting sanctions” as well. These penalties would include yellow cards, bookings, etc.
In light of the heightened risk of punishments that could impact his team’s play on the pitch, Southgate’s strong stance started to weaken.
“A lot of discussions [were held] without me because I’ve been focusing on the game,” he said. “We’re wearing the Fifa armband decided by collective federations overnight I believe – we’re in the middle of all that but really trying to focus on the game, frankly.”
Shortly after those comments, multiple European football associations put out a joint statement bowing to the FIFA pressure.
“We can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in games,” the statement read.
On Saturday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino attempted to empathize with the LGBTQ community, migrant workers, and others at the center of the controversy surrounding his organization’s decision to allow Qatar to host the World Cup.
“Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker,” the FIFA boss said in a long speech before the first game of the tournament.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino says the West is in no position 'to give moral lessons' to Qatar, adding that European nations should instead apologise for their own histories.
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Infantino made the case that the West was in no position to sit in judgment on the morality of a country like Qatar.
“We have been taught many lessons from Europeans and the Western world. I am European. For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons… This one-sided moral lesson is just hypocrisy. I wonder why no-one recognises the progress made here since 2016,” he said.
“If Europe really cares about the destiny of these people, they can create legal channels — like Qatar did — where a number of these [migrant] workers can come to Europe to work. Give them some future, some hope,” he added.
Scott blasted Infantino after he attempted to identify with impacted groups.
“I’m trying to understand, you brought a World Cup here and I’m trying to understand about a culture,” Scott said.
“I’m trying to understand everything – the whole context of what’s going on and what the FIFA president said yesterday is to me confusing and absolutely bizarre. How you can say “today I am a migrant worker”? No, you are not and you never will be.”