A Government minister has backed Harry Kane’s right to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband in England’s opening World Cup game against Iran on Monday, saying it’s “valid” to make the argument for LGBT rights.
England captain Kane risks a yellow card for wearing the armband after Football’s world governing body Fifa banned teams from doing so during the tournament in Qatar.
But Robert Jenrick, Minister for Immigration, said on Monday that it was up to Kane and Wales captain Gareth Bale to decide whether they wanted to take a stand on the issue or not.
Mr Kenrick told LBC: “I think that's a choice for them and I respect their judgment.
“They're both great team captains and we'll be cheering on England and Wales over the course of the tournament.
“It's their judgement and I think it's a it's a valid point that we make the case for LGBT rights. We in the UK, quite rightly have high standards in that regard and Qatar has a different approach. I think it's perfectly valid for England and Wales to make that argument to make the point.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who has said he will travel to Qatar for the World Cup, has faced criticism for saying British fans heading to the Gulf state should respect the country’s customs and laws.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar because it is considered immoral under Islamic Sharia law.
Mr Jenrick repeated that line on Monday morning but added: “Well, I think when you visit a foreign country, you always have to respect their laws and values.
“But we do take a different approach on this issue. And some issues are of the utmost importance, they are universal values. That's how we view the rights of LGBT people to express themselves and so I would ask them to be respectful but not ask them to change.”
Tottenham striker Kane is among the captains of nine European nations planning to wear the rainbow armbands in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.
The FA is prepared to be fined over the issue and reiterated its decision to wear the armband against discrimination despite FIFA announcing plans for its own bands on the eve of the tournament.
It has been reported wearing the armband could lead to an immediate booking before a ball is kicked, which could cause havoc as two yellow cards lead to a one-match ban.
That would mean both Kane and Wales captain Gareth Bale - who has also pledged to wear the armband - could be banned from the final group game when the two sides meet.
England skipper 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 tomorrow they will have their decision. But, yeah, I think we’ve made it clear that we want to wear it.”
Asked for his opinion given the apparent threat of a yellow card, boss Southgate added: “There’s nothing I can add to what Harry has said.
“I know there are some conversations going on. I think a number of European countries have spoken.
“We’ve made our position clear, so hopefully everything will be resolved before the game.”
Southgate also said England will take the knee before their World Cup games..
The Three Lions made the gesture against racism and inequality in 33 straight matches after football returned after the Covid-19 shutdown.
He said: “We have discussed taking the knee.
“We feel we should. It’s what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time.”
Qatar’s defeat on Sunday made them the first hosts to lose the opening match in the tournament’s 92-year history and the venue looking noticeably less full when the second half got under way with them already two down.
It came after actor Morgan Freeman sought to provide a dose of Hollywood gravitas as the 2022 tournament was officially opened.
The Oscar-winning actor, known for his roles in The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, narrated the opening ceremony initially on a video before appearing in the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.
He told the crowd: “We gather here as one big tribe and Earth is the tent we all live in.”
Men dancing with swords, camels and a parade of World Cup mascots also featured in the ceremony to open the competition controversially awarded to Qatar.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino was in attendance alongside Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the driving force behind the country’s World Cup bid.