Some things are more important than football, but try telling that to our nation's World Cup squads.
England and Wales are among seven countries who have just confirmed that their captains won't be donning the 'One Love' armband on the pitch in support of LGBTQ+ rights.
“We cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” the group's Football Associations said in a joint statement released on Monday morning.
The decision came just hours after the Three Lions captain Harry Kane voiced his commitment to championing the rainbow-coloured statement.
Sitting alongside manager Gareth Southgate at a press conference on Sunday, Kane said: “I think we’ve made it clear as a team and a staff and organisation that we want to wear the armband.
“I know the FA are talking to FIFA at the moment, and I’m sure by game-time they will have their decision. But, yeah, I think we’ve made it clear that we want to wear it.”
Suffice it to say, the abandonment of their "clear" intentions has been met with fire and fury on Twitter. Even Piers Morgan was outraged...
\u201cI'm not gay, but if I was, I'd be absolutely furious about this FA armband U-turn. Makes an absolute mockery of the whole 'we're going to speak out about human rights in Qatar rather than boycott it' stance.\u201d
\u201cDay 2 of the World Cup. \nIt\u2019s already the worst ever\u201d
— Jonathan Mitchell (@Jonathan Mitchell)
\u201cNothing does virtue signalling better than football and the one time they had the opportunity to make a genuine statement by defying FIFA, they\u2019ve bottled it \ud83e\udd21 \n\nWearing an armband won\u2019t save the world but getting an instant yellow card would have at least given FIFA a big \ud83d\udd95\u201d
\u201cToday I feel gay, and tomorrow I\u2019m banning an armband that is worn to promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind. \nWat een schaamteloze man is dit zeg. #infantino #onelove #WK2022\u201d
\u201c@SkyNews Yesterday people were MURDERED for being who they are. If the price of solidarity with LGBT+ people is a yellow card then I\u2019d support any player who had the courage to take it. @HKane You have a moment in time to change a little piece of history? Where will you stand?\u201d
\u201cFIFA - Corrupt.\nPundits - Cowards.\nThe FA - Spineless.\n\nHow are LGBTQ+ footballers supposed to come out and feel comfortable in themselves, when you can\u2019t even wear an armband? Deplorable.\u201d
Kane had been due to wear the OneLove armband against Iran on Monday afternoon, while Wales skipper Gareth Bale was due to wear it in the match against the United States later in the evening.
The seven nations' defensive statement insisted: “We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband."
They went on: “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response.
“Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”
If by "other ways" they mean by sporting FIFA's own officially sanctioned armband, we're not sure that will be a great consolation to the LGBTQ+ community.
On Monday, the association confirmed that players would be obliged to wear its new "no discrimination" statement, saying : “For FIFA Final Competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA.
"FIFA is an inclusive organisation that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but it has to be done within the framework of the competition regulations which are known to everyone.”
And isn't that what inclusion is all about? Forcing people to promote vague-but-painfully-ironic statements like "no discrimination"?
Here's what the Football Supporters’ Association had to say in response: "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, workers’ rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.”
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