World Cup: Rio Ferdinand blasts England over OneLove armband protest

Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer spoke out on the armband issue ahead of England's opener against Iran. (Photo: BBC)
Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer spoke out on the armband issue ahead of England's opener against Iran. (Photo: BBC)

The English FA and six other European nations who backed down over wearing anti-discrimination armbands have been accused of folding "like a pack of cards” after players were threatened with sporting sanctions.

England were one of seven nations set to wear the One Love anti-discrimination armband in their World Cup matches, before Fifa threatened captain Harry Kane with a yellow card if he wore one.

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.

A joint statement on Monday from the nations who had signed up to the campaign - which included Wales - confirmed the armbands would no longer be worn.

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Speaking on the BBC prior to the England's opening match against Iran, the U-turn was lambasted by former captains Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer, who said more pressure should be put on national football associations rather than players.

“They’ve had one bump in the road and they’ve all folded like a pack of cards,” said Ferdinand, referring to the seven European nations.

England's Harry Kane with UEFA One Love armband during the UEFA Nations League Group C Match at San Siro Stadium, Italy. Picture date: Friday September 23, 2022. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
England's Harry Kane with the Uefa One Love armband during the Nations League Group C Match at San Siro Stadium, Italy. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

He added: “You can't win as a footballer. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you speak out, people say ‘you’re not a politician, be quiet, get back in your box’. If you speak out people say ‘oh, you’re a politician now?’

“It’s very difficult and that’s why federations have to be stronger and come together in a unified approach and say ‘this is where we stand’.”

Shearer added: “I don’t think it’s fair for the players to deal with this on the morning of a game. The FA knew it was in the rule book.

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“It would have made a huge statement with Harry Kane coming out with that armband on, then what would Fifa do?”

Others have been critical, with Conservative MP Simon Clarke saying that both the Football Association and the Football Association of Wales had "ducked" the challenge of going up against Fifa's stance.

"The England or Welsh captains being ordered to leave the pitch over a moral stance would have been the defining image of this World Cup," he added.

Kane had been due to wear the One Love 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.

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.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JUNE 27: A detailed view of the 'ONE-LOVE' captains armband worn by Georginio Wijnaldum of Netherlands is seen during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between Netherlands and Czech Republic at Puskas Arena on June 27, 2021 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Alex Livesey - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
The One Love captain's armband worn by Georginio Wijnaldum of Netherlands. (Photo UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

The statement said: “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.

“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.”

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