England and other teams planning to wear the ‘OneLove’ armbands to make a statement against discrimination during the World Cup in Qatar were faced with ‘extreme blackmail’ of ‘massive sanctions’ by football’s ruling body, FIFA, the German Football Association (DFB) has claimed.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state and punishable by up to seven years in prison.
The federations of England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had said on Monday they had been put under pressure by FIFA, who had threatened to issue yellow cards to any player wearing the multi-coloured armband.
German FA (DFB)’s media director Steffen Simon told German Deutschlandfunk radio on Tuesday, November 22 that England, which had been the first team to be expected to wear it on Monday in their game against Iran, had been threatened with multiple sporting sanctions to prevent them from making the gesture in support of LGBT+ rights.
‘The tournament director went to the English team and talked about multiple rule violations and threatened with massive sporting sanctions without specifying what these would be,’ Simon said.
Simon, who did not specify if he was referring to local organisers or FIFA in his reference to the tournament director, said the other six nations then decided to ‘show solidarity’ and not wear it.
‘We lost the armband and it is very painful but we are the same people as before with the same values. We are not impostors who claim they have values and then betray them,’ he said.
England manager, Gareth Southgate, said the failure to secure FIFA approval for Harry Kane to wear the ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband prior to the match against Iran on Monday had been a concern and there are ‘lessons to be learned’ from the controversy.
He said: ‘I didn’t want anything distracting the players. There’s been a huge amount of talk around us, which is understandable. If we can help raise awareness of other issues then we want to do that and we will always try to do that, but of course we’re here to try and take our supporters on a great journey again.’
He told talkSPORT’s World Cup daily podcast: ‘I was a bit concerned that approval hadn’t been given and I think there are lessons to be learned from that, if I’m honest. But we had to focus on the football’.
DFB president Bernd Neuendorf called FIFA’s stance ‘an unprecedented event in World Cup history’ and ‘a show of force’.
Now the German FA is considering taking legal action against FIFA to end its ban on wearing the armbands during the World Cup.
The DFB is planning to make a legal motion to the International Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) over FIFA’s ban, which has only added to criticism of its decision to award Qatar rights to host football’s largest international spectacle.
‘FIFA has banned us from showing diversity and human rights,’ a DFB spokesperson told Welt.
The DFB will be hoping that legal action will overturn FIFA’s decision to ban the armband in time to allow captain Manuel Neuer to wear it when the German national team faces off against Spain on Sunday – without him receiving a yellow card.
It is unlikely that the ban will be overturned before Germany faces off against Japan in their first match on today.