England captain Harry Kane to wear anti-discrimination armband for Qatar World Cup

Harry Kane wears a rainbow heart armband in a professional photo

England captain Harry Kane will wear a rainbow anti-discrimination armband at World Cup matches in Qatar, where LGBTQ+ identities are criminalised. 

Kane and captains from several other countries that qualified for the World Cup – including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Wales – will wear the OneLove armband during their matches in Qatar. 

He will wear the armband, which features a heart design with multiple stripes in various colours, for the first time on Friday (23 September) night’s Nations League match against Italy. 

The campaign comes as multiple advocates, fans and groups have voiced concerns over Qatar’s alarming track record on human rights, including its persecution of LGBTQ+ people.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and being found guilty of same-sex relations can result in a lengthy prison sentence. Qatar also runs courts under Sharia law where technically it is possible for men to face the death penalty if they are found to have engaged in same-sex intimacy.

Kane said he’s “honoured” to join his fellow national team captains in supporting the “important OneLove campaign” and stand in solidarity against discrimination. 

“As captains, we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination,” Kane said. 

He continued: “This is even more relevant at a time when division is common in society. 

“Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching.”

England footballer Harry Kane runs during a match

England captain Harry Kane says wearing the anti-discrimination armband sends a “clear message when the world is watching”. (Getty)

England’s Football Association (FA) said it is also continuing to request more detail on assurances given by the local organizing committee that all fans – including those from the LGBTQ+ community – will be safe and welcome in Qatar. 

Queer football fans have been told to use “common sense” when attending the World Cup, which kicks off in November. The Football Association of Wales confirmed in July that talks with organisers were still ongoing but they were told “everyone is very welcome” as it “will be an inclusive World Cup”. 

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said he was also lobbying football’s global governing body FIFA for an update regarding a compensation scheme for migrant workers in Qatar and the creation of a centre to help them access support. 

“We continue to push for the principle of compensation for the families of migrant workers who have lost their lives or have been injured in construction projects,” he said.

“Again, we are pushing FIFA for an update on the compensation fund which has been consistently referenced as a safety net where workers and their families have been unable to secure compensation from the construction companies.”

Amnesty International called on FIFA to create a compensation fund of at least $440 million for the “hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses” during preparations for the Qatar World Cup.

The sum is equivalent to the prize money offered to teams at the World Cup.

Harry Kane wears a rainbow captain armband during a match

Harry Kane has repeatedly shown his support for the LGBTQ+ community. (Getty)

Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of priority campaigns, welcomed the announcement but said the FA needs to “specifically support a FIFA compensation fund for abused workers and the families of those who’ve died to make the World Cup happen”. 

“The FAs pledge to support efforts to remedy abuses suffered by thousands of overseas workers in Qatar … could be significant, but we still need to see whether this is seriously taken up either by the Qatari authorities or by FIFA,” Jakens said. 

LGBTQ+ and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told PinkNews that the OneLove slogan is “too vague to have any serious impact” and wanted England Football to take a harder stance against Qatar’s “discrimination against women and LGBT+ people”. 

“It is not a proper rainbow but looks like a deliberate mish-mash of colours to avoid the controversy of being seen to endorse LGBT+ equality,” Tatchell said. 

He continued: “England Football’s public statement does not address Qatar’s specific discrimination against women and LGBT+ people. 

“It only mentions LGBT+ fans in passing and completely ignores the restrictions on women’s rights.”

Tatchell added the statement “misleadingly suggests” Qatar has made “significant improvements in conditions for migrant workers”. 

He said it neglected to mention “unpaid wages, overcrowded slum hotels, workers who still cannot change jobs and are forced to pay illegal recruitment fees and that those who protests were recently arrested and deported”. 

“This statement is an embarrassment and whitewash,” Tatchell said. 

This is not the first time that Henry Kane has come out supporting the LGBTQ+ community. He wore a rainbow captain’s armband to mark the end of Pride month in 2021 as the Three Lions stood in “allyship with LGBT+ communities around the world”

Kane vowed in March to help “shine a light” on the litany of human rights issues in Qatar as he thought it would “send out a bigger and more powerful message” to the global community. 

“It is part of the responsibility of a team captain,” he said. “It is important to talk about these things and not just hide away from them.”