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England and Netherlands Notch Wins as U.S. Settles for a Draw


Organizers of the World Cup threatened on Monday to issue a yellow card to any player who wears a rainbow armband on the event, escalating a fight that had begun as a show of support for gay rights but has was a showdown between world soccer’s governing body and a handful of European nations.

Harry Kane, the captain of England’s national soccer team, was expected to be the primary player to take the sector in a multicolored armband emblazoned with the words “One Love” at this World Cup. As an alternative he appeared at England’s tournament opener against Iran wearing an armband bearing the brand of FIFA’s own “No Discrimination” campaign, which was rushed out, apparently to spoil the “One Love” plans.

The “One Love” armbands were designed to indicate support for minority groups amid continuing concerns concerning the treatment of the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Qatar, where homosexuality is a criminal offense. A bunch of European soccer federations joined forces and planned to defy the strict uniform rules by FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, and wear them on the World Cup, soccer’s biggest stage.

On Monday, nonetheless, the teams said FIFA’s threats of discipline have made that not possible. Its decision to take aim at players in such a direct way at such a high-profile event had little precedent and underlined the tensions it’s grappling with in Qatar. Just three days ago, FIFA infuriated a longtime business partner by announcing that beer would now not be available throughout the perimeters of all eight World Cup stadiums.

The most recent decision will put further scrutiny on FIFA; FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino; and Qatar, the tournament’s host nation. Qatar has been increasingly strident that the event keeps with its traditions and customs. The sale of beer is strictly controlled in Qatar, a conservative Muslim emirate, and homosexuality is a criminal offense.

In discussions over the weekend, the teams had appeared willing to just accept a effective for the uniform violation. But by Monday they faced the brand new threat, based on an announcement released by the seven European teams, including England, Wales and the Netherlands, which played their tournament openers Monday. FIFA, which didn’t reply to letters sent by the teams in September informing it of their intentions, as a substitute waited until hours before the primary games to make its threat to issue a yellow card to players wearing the unsanctioned armband.

Starting a game on a yellow card means a player begins play prone to receiving a second through the match. Players can compete with one yellow, but two yellows result in a red card — leading to an ejection after which a suspension for the following game.

Consequently, the teams said, they’d little alternative but to ask their players to not risk punishment.

“FIFA has been very clear that it would impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the sector of play,” the group of seven teams said in a joint statement. “As national federations, we will’t put our players ready where they may face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we now have asked the captains to not try and wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.

“We were prepared to pay fines that will normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a robust commitment to wearing the armband. Nonetheless, we cannot put our players within the situation where they is perhaps booked and even forced to depart the sector of play.”

The statement was issued jointly by the soccer federations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

“We’re very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we consider is unprecedented,” the federations said. On Sunday, FIFA’s meetings with officials from the European federations ended with no resolution and with officials from the nations concerned insisting they might press on. By Monday that resolve had apparently melted away, regardless that the symbol they’d picked to make their point was not quite in the colours of the Pride flag. Their effort appeared to try to string the needle of meeting the needs of pressure groups at home while not infuriating their Qatari hosts. But ultimately even that was an excessive amount of.

Oliver Bierhoff, the director of Germany’s team, which opens its tournament against Japan on Wednesday, said FIFA had “escalated” the situation overnight. Germany’s captain, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Bierhoff said, went to bed Sunday “believing he could be wearing the armband.” Each Neuer and Kane, England’s captain, had spoken publicly about their determination to wear the armband.

Nevertheless it was FIFA that had the ultimate say, once more making an Eleventh-hour decision that appeared to learn the host country, Qatar. Infantino, FIFA’s president, on Saturday rallied to the Gulf country’s defense, outlining why criticism of the country is unsuitable during nearly an hourlong soliloquy that lashed European countries for what he described as their “hypocrisy” and “moralizing.”

The choice may undercut efforts by FIFA to focus on its own role in promoting human rights. For instance, before the World Cup in Russia in 2018 it worked with Human Rights Watch to issue a message in support of the rights of girls in Iran to attend games in stadiums, a longstanding ban that largely stays in place. FIFA’s position then was that human rights and ladies’s rights weren’t political.

The organization has all the time tried to steer teams from anything that might be perceived as a political gesture. Its rules on whether there might be on-field penalties appear to have been vague enough to embolden the teams to push through with making an announcement.

Bernd Neuendorf, the president of the German Football Association, said the consequence was “a show of force from FIFA.”

FIFA said in an announcement that it had brought forward its own “No Discrimination” campaign, which was speculated to start running within the quarterfinals, so captains could wear armbands emblazoned with that logo at some point of the World Cup.

Some activist groups responded by criticizing FIFA for shutting down something they’d already considered to be a weak show of support for minority groups.

“A token gesture from the beginning that has was one other embarrassment from FIFA,” Pride in Football, a British network of L.G.B.T.Q. fan groups, wrote on Twitter. “FIFA have had since September to sort this, and yet they wait until now to threaten sanction. FIFA is denying players their fundamental and most simple human right to freedom of speech.”

Football Supporters Europe, an umbrella organization for fan groups, described FIFA’s decision as a betrayal.

“Today we feel contempt for a company that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance,” it said in an announcement. “Since 2010 we now have been raising questions on 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 try to censor players for sharing a positive message.”

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