The World Cup 2022 in Qatar is underway, with both England and Wales getting their campaigns started today. Gareth Southgate’s team defeated Iran convincingly 6-2 in the lunchtime match, while Rob Page’s Wales put up a tough fight against the USA, with the match ending 1-1.
While Bukayo Saka and Gareth Bale shined for their respective countries, attention turned to matters off-field. England and Wales decided not wear the anti-discrimination One Love armband in their World Cup matches after FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions, while reports surfaced that supporters wearing any “banned” rainbow symbols into stadiums were not permitted entry.
Follow the latest in our live blog, including reports from our football reporter Rahman Osman in Qatar...
World Cup 2022 - latest news
What England and Wales have said about armbands
It’s been announced that England and Wales will not wear an anti-discrimination armband in their World Cup matches today after FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions.
A joint statement from seven European nations who had signed up to the ‘One Love’ campaign – which included England and Wales – confirmed they had asked for the armbands to no longer be worn.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the statement began.
“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.”
FIFA in the spotlight again as fans express outrage
Today’s move by FIFA to threaten to penalise players who wear the One Love rainbow armband brings yet more controversy on world football’s governing body.
It appears that FIFA have decided that the rainbow armband promoting an anti-discriminatory message against homophobia is in fact political. And it comes just days after FIFA president Gianni Infantino used his opening speech to claim that he understood discrimination because he had “red hair and freckles” growing up in Italy.
In response to the latest move, the Football Supporters Association has issued a statement in response, paraphrasing Infantino’s ‘today I feel gay’ speech on Saturday:
“To paraphrase FIFA president Gianni Infantino – today LGBT+ football supporters and their allies will feel angry.
“Today we feel betrayed. Today we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance.
“Never again should a World Cup be handed out solely on the basis of money and infrastructure. No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.
“Since 2010 we have been raising questions about the suitability of Qatar as a World Cup host. Everyone could see this coming and it’s astonishing that, on the morning of England’s World Cup opener, FIFA are trying to censor players for sharing a positive message.”
Kick it Out: ‘Football should be a game for everyone'
The anti-discrimination campaign group Kick It Out has also released a statement attacking FIFA’s move:
“We are disappointed that FIFA are intent on imposing sanctions on European nations who choose to wear the ‘One Love’ armband, preventing teams from sending a strong statement to the world that diversity and inclusion are an integral part of the game.
“This decision continues to highlight FIFA’s failure to address concerns of both human rights groups and the LGBTQ+ community in the build-up to this tournament.
“Players and fans should not have had to bear the burden of FIFA’s mistakes and we will continue to support Gareth Southgate, and his team, as they look to explore other ways to support inclusion in football.
“Football should be a game for everyone and Kick It Out continue to stand with the LGBTQ+ community in solidarity.”
Here’s an explainer on Qatar’s human rights record.
Rahman Osman meets England fans in Qatar
Our football reporter Rahman Osman met up with some England fans in Qatar ahead of the World Cup opener against Iran.
Warning, contains some strong language:
Downing Street’s ‘frustration’ over FIFA stance
Downing Street has said FIFA’s threat over the rainbow armband was frustrating.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We share the FA’s frustration with Fifa’s decision on this which puts players in a very difficult position. It is, ultimately, a decision for the FA. On LGBT rights more broadly, clearly Qatar’s policies are not those of the UK Government and not ones we would endorse.”
On the subject of taking the knee, Downing Street said it would respect the decisions of teams: “It’s a decision for the teams in the first instance,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said. “We will respect their decision.”
They added that Rishi Sunak is unlikely to be able to watch England’s World Cup opener as he is carrying out a series of engagements in the Midlands.
Alex Scott wears rainbow armband
Whlie England’s players may have been unable to wear the One Love armband, BBC sports pundit Alex Scott spotted an opportunity.
She wore the rainbow armband ahead of England’s opener with Iran, which is still goalless.
Culture Secretary ‘disappointed’ over armband threat
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said it was “disappointing” that players faced punishment for supporting equal rights.
“The England & Wales players have my support,” she said on Twitter. “The #OneLove armband promotes diversity & inclusion, which are values we will always stand up for. It is disappointing that our players are put in a position where they face being punished for supporting equal human rights.”
England lead Iran 3-0 after lengthy injury time
England are 3-0 up against Iran in their World Cup opener, thanks to goals from Jude Bellingham, Bakayo Saka and Raheem Sterling.
There were 14 minutes of added time to the first half, following the treatment to Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, who eventually had to go off after suffering concussion from a head knock. Serious questions have been asked about why he was allowed to play on, despite the clash of heads leaving him with a bloodied nose.
England hit Iran for six
England have just taken a 6-1 lead over Iran with minutes to go. Yes, SIX.
Jack Grealish rolled in the sixth goal, following second half efforts from Bakayo Saka (his second of the game) and substitute Marcus Rashford.
Now Iran have have ten minutes of injury time to get through...
Full time (at last)
Iran pull back a consolation penalty at the very death. Full time score: England 6 - 2 Iran.
Fun fact: for every one of England’s goalscorers it was their first World Cup goal. That bodes well for the future.