FIFA ‘blackmailed’ World Cup teams into ditching LGBTQ+ armband, says German football boss

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FIFA “blackmailed” football teams into ditching LGBTQ+ armbands for the World Cup, the German Football Association (DFB) has claimed.

While the captains of several teams, including England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, had said that they would wear the OneLove LGBTQ+ armbands during the World Cup in Qatar, they later backed down due to the threat of a yellow card.

In a joint statement, the countries’ Football Associations said on Monday (21 November): “FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play.

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.”

But now, Steffen Simon, DFB’s media director, has described the situation as “extreme blackmail”.

Speaking to Deutschlandfunk radio following England’s match against Iran on Monday, Simon said: “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.”

He said the other football associations decided to show “solidarity” with the England team, but said the decision was “painful”.

“We lost the armband and it is very painful but we are the same people as before with the same values,” he explained.

“We are not imposters who claim they have values and then betray them. We were in an extreme situation, in an extreme blackmail and we thought we had to take that decision without wanting to do so.”

The DFB has also said that it is planning to take legal action against FIFA over the LGBTQ+ armband ban.

A spokesperson told Welt that the association was “checking whether this action by FIFA was lawful”, and indicated that it would be willing to take its case to the International Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

“FIFA has banned us from showing diversity and human rights,” they said. “FIFA combined this with massive threats of sporting sanctions without specifying them.”

The possibility of legal action comes as football fans were forced to remove rainbow items of clothing in stadiums in Qatar, where being gay is illegal.

ITV News posted a video of former Wales captain Laura McAllister being stopped by “insistent” Qatar security for wearing a rainbow hat while trying to enter a stadium.

The Guardian reported that FIFA and Qatar were in talks on Tuesday (22 November) over the incidents, with FIFA reportedly reminding Qatar of their previous assurances that rainbow flags could be brought into the stadium.