What is the One Love armband? Meaning of rainbow armbands, FIFA threat, backlash, England stance - explained

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Germany set to investigate FIFA sanction over OneLove armband

England captain Harry Kane and a number of other World Cup captains were set to wear an armband bearing a rainbow design at this winter’s Qatar World Cup, to help send an anti-discriminatory message against homophobia. However, England, Wales and a number of other countries made a u-turn on this decision after a threat from FIFA said they would impose sanctions on those wearing the armband.

Germany have now revealed they are investigating whether it is legal for FIFA to threaten players with sanctions for wearing the OneLove armband in Qatar. German’s Football Federation, DFB’s media director Steffen Simon has said: “Fifa has forbidden us from using a symbol of diversity and human rights. They combined this with massive threats of sporting sanctions without specifying them. The DFB is checking whether this action by Fifa was legal.”

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Here’s everything you need to know about the rainbow armband, and what has been said...

What have Germany said?

Germany were one of the many teams who had planned to wear the armband but the plans were then dropped following Fifa’s threat that players would be booked and face match bans. DFB’s Simon had previously said the seven nations intent on using the armband were faced wtih “extreme blackmail” from Fifa.

The national team have also taken to Twitter to say: “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.

“It wasn’t about making a political statement - human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.

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Is Harry Kane wearing the One Love armband?

England played their first match at the World Cup against Iran on Monday 21 November and England’s captain was not wearing the armband. Instead, he was wearing the No Discrimination armband. The ‘No Discrimination’ campaign had been due to start from the quarter-finals but Fifa has since pushed this forward in light of the removal of the One Love armbands.

What have the FA said?

The Football Associations of England, Wales, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland have now released joint statement about the One Love armband: "FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. As national federations, 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 FIFA World Cup games.

Germany’s Neuer has his armband checked ahead of fixture against JapanGermany’s Neuer has his armband checked ahead of fixture against Japan
Germany’s Neuer has his armband checked ahead of fixture against Japan | AFP via Getty Images

"We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.

"We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways."

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Why do people wear the rainbow armband?

The rainbow has long since been a symbol of the LGBTQ community, and was adpoted in 1978. The colours on a rainbow flag reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ community, and the spectrum of human sexuality and gender.

Various variations of the flag have been created, each with the intention of representing members and segments of the broader community. As such, the decision to wear a rainbow armband at the Qatar World Cup was a direct acknowledgment of the belief in equality and inclusivity in relation to matters of sexuality and gender.

How does Qatar handle LGBTQ rights?

Members of the LGBTQ community face legal challenges in Qatar not experienced by non-members. In particular, male homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine.

As well as the penal code, the gulf state also runs Sharia courts, where the punishment for Muslim men engaging in same-sex activity could technically receive the death penalty. It’s worth pointing out, however, that there has been no recorded occurrence of this happening. In addition, the Qatari government does not recognise same-sex marriage or civil partnerships, nor does it allow people in Qatar to campaign for LGBTQ rights.

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Will LGBTQ fans be allowed at the Qatar World Cup?

Fatma Al-Nuaimi, the Executive Director of Communications for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of the World Cup 2022, says Qatar has hosted around 600 international events since being awarded hosting rights and claims that there have been no incidents of discrimination.

Speaking to SBS News, she said: “We keep assuring everyone that everyone is welcome. Everyone will be able to come, enjoy the games and support their teams, regardless of their background, religion or gender.”

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