The stage was set for England and other 2022 World Cup teams — Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland — to make a statement on the biggest soccer stage there is.
Their captains were going to wear “OneLove” armbands during matches in Qatar. Per USA TODAY Sports: “The ‘OneLove’ campaign originated in the Netherlands and promotes diversity and inclusion in soccer. Several of the game’s most high-profile players, including England captain Harry Kane and Germany captain Manuel Neuer, wore rainbow armbands at the 2020 European championship. They were determined to wear them in Qatar, where the penal code punishes extramarital sex, including same-sex relations, with up to seven years in prison.”
That fell apart because there was a threat that those captains wearing the armbands would be shown a yellow card right from the start of the games due to a violation of FIFA rules on the specific armbands they’re allowed to wear. And let’s remember that any player given two yellow cards in the opening rounds of the World Cup gets suspended for a game.
It’s a true shame and a massive disappointment that these teams couldn’t face the idea of standing up for human rights outweighed a soccer game. FIFA’s cowardice — after it backed down over a last-minute change by the host country to stop beer sales near Qatar’s World Cup stadiums — is apparent once again as well.
Then there’s what you saw what happened before England’s first 2022 World Cup contest.
The Three Lions faced Iran in their first match, and what we witnessed was incredible: None of Iran’s players sang the national anthem, and there were audible jeers from fans:
The Iran National Anthem plays for the first time at the 2022 FIFA World Cup pic.twitter.com/R5HAsuw5FQ
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 21, 2022
The context: There have been months of protests in Iran, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who was arrested for allegedly violating laws about wearing hijabs.
Ehsan Hajsafi has spoken out with support before Monday’s match, and to follow that up with a protest on the World Cup stage is true bravery.
I’m not the only one who noticed the stark contrast:
On a day when England back down from wearing an armband over concerns about a player getting booked, Iran players abstain from singing their anthem in protest at their government. That’s real bravery.
— Si Lloyd (@SmnLlyd5) November 21, 2022
By refusing to sing the national anthem, it’s no exaggeration to say the Iran player have put their very lives at risk.
England and Kane, having previously said they would, choose not to put an apparent yellow card at risk.
— NathanAClark (@NathanAClark) November 21, 2022
Iran players not singing their anthem out of protest, risking their lives and family lives back home… meanwhile, the England freedom fighters are shook by a yellow card
— aims (@yungaims) November 21, 2022
Iran’s players refused to sing national anthem risking time in prison when they go back while england was scared of a yellow card
— (@KDBalls) November 21, 2022
Viewers were disappointed that Fox’s World Cup coverage ignored Qatar’s awful human rights record