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European teams will not wear LGBTQ armbands at the World Cup after FIFA threats

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Soccer teams representing seven European countries at the World Cup have announced that their captains will no longer wear the OneLove bracelet in Qatar after FIFA, which hosts the tournament, said players wearing the bands would be penalized.

The captains of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland originally intended to wear the rainbow armband to promote diversity and inclusion at the World Cup.

“We were willing to pay fines that would normally apply to kit rule violations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they are shown a yellow card or even forced to leave the field of play,” the football associations said in a joint statement. Three of the teams, England, Wales and the Netherlands, were scheduled to play on Monday.

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“We are very frustrated with the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented,” the teams added, pledging to show their support for “inclusion” in other ways. “As national federations, we cannot put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings.”

Qatar has come under scrutiny in the run-up to the tournament for its approach to human rights, including concerns about the conditions of migrant workers and the conservative Persian Gulf state’s stance on LGBT people. According to a recent report by the US State Department, sex between men is illegal in Qatar and carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Originally conceived by the Netherlands national football team, 10 European teams initially signed up for the OneLove campaign in September – agreeing that their captains would wear a rainbow armband to send a message against discrimination and promote inclusion.

“As captains we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but together we stand against all forms of discrimination,” England captain Harry Kane said in September. “Wearing the bracelet together on behalf of our teams will send a clear signal when the world is watching.”

FIFA rejected the OneLove campaign and threatened sanctions against players wearing the armband, according to national football teams. Instead, FIFA has suggested that national captains wear armbands from the separate ‘No Discrimination’ campaign.

In a separate statement on Monday, the global football body said it had brought forward the start of its anti-discrimination campaign to allow all 32 national captains to wear that armband throughout the tournament.

“FIFA is an inclusive organization that aims to put football at the service of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but it must do so within the framework of competition rules known to all,” the body said in a statement.

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