England captain Harry Kane ‘disappointed’ over OneLove armband decision after FIFA threat

England’s Harry Kane with the One Love armband (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)
England’s Harry Kane with the One Love armband (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

England captain Harry Kane was left ‘disappointed’ after not being able to wear a rainbow OneLove anti-discrimination armband for England’s opening game of the Qatar World Cup.

Kane had planned to wear the armband until just hours before kick-off until FIFA threatened sporting sanctions including a yellow card.

A joint statement from seven European nations who had signed up to the OneLove campaign - which included England and Wales - confirmed the armbands would no longer be worn, before the teams kicked off in their first group games.

The band contains the rainbow colours associated with the Pride flag and had been set to be a strong statement in Qatar, a country which criminalises same-sex relationships.

Kane instead wore FIFA’s ‘No discrimination’ armband, which is not rainbow coloured, after the organising body brought forward its own campaign on Saturday for the finals in Qatar.

The Tottenham striker had previously sported the OneLove armband in UEFA matches this season after the participating nations were given permission but he was unable to do so at the Khalifa International Stadium.

After the 6-2 win over Iran he said: “We’re disappointed. We wanted to wear it, that decision was taken out of my hands.

“I turned up to the stadium with the armband that I wore and I was told I had to wear that.

“Look, it’s out of our control as players. “I’m sure the FA and FIFA will continue those discussions but most importantly today we focused on the game and got a great result.

“You’ve seen over the last five years we’ve made a stand as a squad and we’ll continue to do that as much as we can. We took the knee today as well but sometimes these decisions aren’t up to us and that’s the bottom line.”

The captains of other countries including Gareth Bale for Wales had planned to wear the OneLove armband. It is seen as a protest against discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community around the world. The host nation has attracted a storm of criticism over its laws on homosexuality.

Manager Gareth Southgate said he appreciated FIFA’s stance on the matter but that the issue was not going to prove a distraction for his players who did take the knee before kick off.

He said: “It’s not something that the players or myself have been involved with over the last 24 hours.

“The discussions have been ongoing between several European nations and FIFA. I do understand FIFA’s situation in that you can set a precedent and it’s very difficult then.

“Where do you draw the line?“I think in an ideal world that would have been a much clearer situation earlier, but it’s not something that’s been a distraction for us because, as I said (on Sunday), we had to focus on the football.

“We’ve got to just concentrate on performances, concentrate on our training, especially the players. It’s not for them to have to deal with that.

“People know what we stand for, people know this group of players are taking the knee because it’s something we feel we can make a difference with, and there are some things that I’m not sure we’re going to be able to make a difference with and therefore we should channel our energies in the right directions.”

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” the statement continued.

A joint statement on behalf of the nations who planned to wear the armbands criticised FIFA for threatening them saying that they would have been willing to pay fines but yellow cards for players was something they could not risk.

A suspension is issued after two bookings in this tournament, meaning had either player been booked ahead of kick-off, they would already be walking a tightrope.

It said: “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 OneLove 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.”

Former Lioness Alex Scott was seen wearing the OneLove armband on air as she presented the BBC’s coverage of the England game in Doha.

Pride in Football, which represents LGBT+ fan groups in the UK, wrote on Twitter: “England may not be wearing the £OneLove armband, but @AlexScott is right now on BBC.“This is more than just LGBTQ+ rights, this is Human Rights.”

Anti-discrimination campaign group Kick It Out was among the organisations to condemn FIFA's move.

Its statement read: "This decision continues to highlight FIFA's failure to address concerns of both human rights groups and the LGBTQ+ community in the build-up to this tournament.

"Players and fans should not have had to bear the burden of FIFA's mistakes and we will continue to support Gareth Southgate, and his team, as they look to explore other ways to support inclusion in football."