GENEVA – FIFA came under pressure from several European soccer federations on Wednesday to have their captains wear armbands with a rainbow heart design during the World Cup in Qatar to campaign against discrimination.
France and Germany, the champions of the last two World Cups, are eight of the 13 European football teams that have traveled to Qatar to participate in the “One Love” campaign that started in the Netherlands. The Dutch team plays Qatar in Group A in November. 29.
FIFA rules prohibit teams from bringing their own armband designs to the World Cup and insist that they must use equipment provided by the governing body.
The armbands are the latest battleground for players pushing political messages linked to the World Cup hosted by Qatar, where homosexual acts are illegal and the treatment of migrant workers building projects for the tournament has been controversial for decades.
“Wearing the armband on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching,” England captain Harry Kane said in a statement.
The Swiss Football Federation said they wanted captain Granit Xhaka to wear an armband that “you can see a heart with different colors representing the diversity of humanity.”
Football players have embraced their platform to make statements in recent years. After the death of George Floyd, a black man in the United States, kneeling on the field before Premier League games was common for two seasons.
FIFA backed the call and must now decide whether to back some of its most influential member federations in a gesture that could embarrass Qatar.
“A request has also been submitted to FIFA asking that armbands be allowed to be worn throughout the FIFA World Cup,” the Welsh Football Association said in a statement.
FIFA did not immediately comment on the request.
The arms embargo campaign began a day after Qatar’s emir pledged a world cup without discrimination at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“The people of Qatar will welcome football fans from all walks of life with open arms,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani told other world leaders.
Belgium and Denmark are among eight European teams supporting the “One Love” campaign for human rights. Five European qualifiers for the World Cup, Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Spain, are not participating on Wednesday.
However, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski – a two-time FIFA player of the year – said this week that he would wear the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag to Qatar.
Poland refused to play 2018 World Cup hosts Russia in March. Ahead of the match, FIFA and European football’s governing body UEFA banned Russian teams from international competitions because of the country’s attack on Ukraine.