World Cup 2022: what is the OneLove armband and why did FIFA ban it?

A woman sews Velcro on to a One Love armband, which is banned by FIFA at the World Cup Qatar 2022, in Utrecht, Netherlands November 23, 2022. REUTERS/Staff

Nov 29 (Reuters) - Here is what you need to know about the 'OneLove' armbands that the captains of seven European teams were planning to wear at the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 World Cup in Qatar:

WHAT DOES THE 'ONELOVE' ARMBAND MEAN?

* The 'OneLove' armbands were originally launched in 2020 as part of an inclusiveness campaign by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB).

* The KNVB campaign opposes discrimination on the basis of race, skin colour, sexual orientation, culture, faith, nationality, gender, age and "all other forms of discrimination".

* The design features a rainbow flag in the shape of a heart with a number one in the middle, surrounded by the text "One Love" on either side and the words "football connects" in cursive below.

WHY WERE TEAM CAPTAINS PLANNING ON WEARING THE ARMBAND AT THE WORLD CUP?

* The captains from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark were planning on wearing the armbands to protest Qatar's laws against same-sex relationships.

WHAT IS QATAR'S RECORD ON LGBT RIGHTS?

* Homosexuality is illegal in the conservative Muslim country, and some soccer players have raised concerns for fans travelling to the event, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and women, who rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against.

* Less than two weeks before the finals, Khalid Salman, a Qatar World Cup ambassador and former international, told German broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality was "damage in the mind", adding that anyone coming to Qatar should "accept our rules here".

* World Cup organisers have repeatedly said that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome during the tournament.

* Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of the 2022 World Cup, has said LGBTQ+ fans coming into the country would not have to worry about "persecution of any sort", describing Qatar as a "tolerant country".

WHY DID THE COUNTRIES DECIDE TO NOT WEAR THE ARMBAND?

* In a joint statement, the football associations of countries planning on wearing the armband said that FIFA had threatened to issue yellow cards to any player wearing it.

* According to FIFA rules, team equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images, and during FIFA Final Competitions, the captain of each team "must wear the captain's armband provided by FIFA".

* Wales said the countries involved had been prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations, but sporting sanctions had been a step too far.

* German Football Association president Bernd Neuendorf said that although FIFA's decision was unprecedented, it was unfair for the players to shoulder the responsibility for any potential consequences if they decided to wear it anyway.

* The Dutch FA said it had taken the decision not to wear the armband with "a heavy heart".

HOW HAVE GROUPS OUTSIDE FOOTBALL REACTED TO THE DECISION?

* The move attracted swift and scathing criticism from groups representing the LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.

* "More than disappointing that @FIFAWorldCup and @FIFAcom silence & deflection means European captains face starting games with yellow cards for trying to highlight issues around human rights," 3LionsPride, a group representing England fans, said.

* Amnesty International said FIFA was failing to uphold its own values and responsibilities.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE BAN

* Following FIFA's ban, the armbands began selling like hot cakes, with the company that makes them in Utrecht, the Netherlands, saying on Nov. 23 it was sold out after shipping 10,000 mostly in the previous two weeks.

The armbands are priced at just above manufacturing cost, at 4.99 euros ($5.18). A new batch of 10,000 will be sold on the KNVB web shop and Voetbalshop.nl.

* Meanwhile, Germany's players protested against FIFA's decision by covering their mouths before kickoff as a symbolic gesture before losing 2-1 to Japan.

* Germany later replaced the logo of REWE supermarket chain that pulled its sponsorship over the armband controversy with that of the armband itself at their press centre.

($1 = 0.9635 euros)

Compiled by Aadi Nair and Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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