The OneLove and rainbow armband controversy continues with this summer's Women’s World Cup

The controversy continues around the OneLove and rainbow armbands, this time for this summer's Women's World Cup
The controversy continues around the OneLove and rainbow armbands, this time for this summer's Women's World Cup Copyright Getty - AFP
By David Mouriquand
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FIFA could ban the armbands from the Women's World Cup this summer, as the governing body has issued a statement saying that they want teams to wear a standard band.

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The Women’s World Cup finds itself at the centre of the returning debate on whether players can wear the OneLove and rainbow armbands.

FIFA could ban the armbands from the Women's World Cup this summer, as the governing body has issued a statement saying that they want teams to wear a standard band.

Reports in German newspaper Bild said the Germany women’s team had been told the rainbow armband, which they have worn for years, had been banned by FIFA for this summer.

“FIFA has informed us that they want all participating nations to wear the Fifa captain’s armband with the FIFA campaign,” Germany team manager Maika Fischer told German newspaper Bild.

In response, a FIFA spokesperson stated: “At a team workshop earlier today FIFA was asked about equipment and competition regulations in relation to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. FIFA wishes to reiterate that no decision has been taken in relation to armbands. FIFA remains committed to ongoing dialogue with players and member associations.”

World Cup 2022 debacle

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The German team, Die Mannschaft, staging a protest against FIFA's ban of the OneLove armband during last year's World CupGetty

This comes after FIFA regulations forced teams to abandon plans to wear pro-LGBTQ rights armbands on the pitches in Qatar during last year’s World Cup.

At the time, nine European teams had committed to their captains wearing the heart-shaped OneLove armbands - in breach of FIFA rules.

The Netherlands came up with the idea and launched the OneLove campaign in 2020. Its purpose is to “send a message against discrimination of any type.” The armband features a colour-striped heart with a white ‘1’, all set on a white backdrop with the words ‘One’ and ‘Love’ written either side in black.

Getty Images
The OneLove armbandGetty Images

These armbands are in support of women’s rights and LGBTQ+ community, and wearing them in Qatar was seen as a potentially powerful symbol, considering homosexual acts are considered immoral under Islamic Sharia law and are punished by prison sentences and even death. Human Rights Watch stated that Qatari security forces arrest homosexual and transgender citizens and sometimes force them to undergo conversion therapy, a report that Qatar's government said contained false allegations.

Regardless of the reports and the message of tolerance the armband promotes, FIFA did not want any teams wearing the armbands, hiding behind regulations that state that participating countries must utilize only the equipment that is provided by the governing body. A letter urging teams to “let football take center stage” was sent by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura ahead of the squad announcements last year, stating: “Please, let’s now focus on the football!” and asking the 32 federations to “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

The controversy culminated in the German team, Die Mannschaft, staging a protest, with their hands covering their mouths for a pre-match team photo (see above). German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser even wore the armband as she sat next to Infantino during the game in Doha.

What now?

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England captain Leah Williamson says it’s important to wear the OneLove armband at the Women’s World CupGetty

If there is a ban, it is unclear what sanctions players may face if they defy it and choose to wear the rainbow or OneLove armbands anyway. Germany's women's side will reportedly continue to wear the armband in their matches leading up to the World Cup.

As things stand, the world governing body’s regulations would see sporting sanctions, such as a yellow card, imposed if any player chose to wear the OneLove armband instead of FIFA’s own.

However, FIFA has not yet ruled out changing its rules ahead of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which starts on 20 July and lasts until 20 August.

Leah Williamson, England's women's captain, has been open about her desire wear the OneLove band to show support to the LGBTQ+ community during the World Cup, and wore a rainbow armband when she lifted the European Championship trophy last year.

"Obviously, you hope it's not a last-minute call once we get there but it's something we want to do all year round and we've done previously," she told reporters in February.

"We're never shy in saying what we stand for, we're a squad that promotes inclusivity and equality.”

Additional sources • BILD

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