The story so far: FIFA on Tuesday did not allow players at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to wear OneLove armbands during matches. The captains of ten European football teams, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, England, France, Netherlands, Norway, Wales, Sweden, and Switzerland, plan to wear armbands, protesting various forms of discrimination, during the contest.
In a joint statement, the captains of England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark said they would not wear OneLove armbands after FIFA made it clear they would be booked for doing so. “You don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card. That is why we as a UEFA working group have a heavy heart and as a team have to decide to abandon our plan,” the Dutch football association KNVB said in a statement.
According to the rules, team equipment must not have any political, religious, or personal slogans, statements, or images, and during FIFA Final Competitions, the captain of each team “must wear a captain’s armband given by FIFA”.
Wales said the countries involved were prepared to pay the fines that normally apply to breaches of kit regulations, but the threat of FIFA sporting sanctions was far-fetched.
The origin of OneLove
On November 17, 2019, SBV Excelsior footballer Ahmad Mendes Moreira, originally from Guinea, was subjected to racial taunts during a match against FC Den Bosch at De Vliert stadium in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. The incident shook the football fraternity and raised questions about the 2020 Euro Cup as well (the Cup was later postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic).
The OneLove campaign was launched in the Netherlands on September 26, 2020 as a direct response to the racist attack on Moreira. The campaign took a stand against all forms of discrimination, while focusing on the power of sport to bring people together, despite all their differences.
OneLove is part of Ons Voetbal is van iederene, which translates to “Our Football Belongs to All”— an initiative launched in February 2020 to counter racism and discrimination in sport. The idea that “football has the power to unite people” was inspired by a quote from Nelson Mandela, not only one of the greatest voices for equality in history but also a passionate football fan.
Launched by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB), the Eredivisie football league, and the Kitchen Champion Division together with the Dutch national government, the project aims to eliminate racism and discrimination from football by focusing on three main pillars: prevention, recognition, and punishment.
OneLove is one of 20 parts of the “Our Football Belongs to All” initiative. The red, black, and green colors in the OneLove logo symbolize race and origin, and the pink, yellow, and blue colors symbolize all gender identities and sexual orientations.
More than 60 football clubs and parties signed an open letter published at the launch of the OneLove campaign in 2020. The Dutch national men’s and women’s football teams have since embraced it. Captains at different levels of football, from professional to novices, have been seen playing with the OneLove armband. In the 2021–22 KNVB Cup final, Ajax and PSV players also used the OneLove logo.
Homosexuality in Qatar
Although the term homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in Qatar’s 2004 penal code, sodomy in particular is punishable by law with imprisonment for a term of one to three years under Article 296. Relationships with both Sex is also believed to be prohibited in the country under articles dealing with adultery and crimes of honor. Articles 281 and 285 of the 2004 Qatar Penal Code punish “accompaniment…without coercion, coercion or fraud” with a woman or a man over sixteen respectively with imprisonment for one term up to seven years. Since the term “offender” is gender neutral, the provisions also cover same-sex relationships. In some cases, the punishment may increase to life imprisonment or a prison term not exceeding fifteen years.
The Qatar Penal Code also punishes “inciting or enticing a man or woman by any means to commit illegal or immoral actions” with imprisonment from one to three years, regardless of what constitutes “ illegal or immoral actions” are undefined, and therefore subjective.
According to Qatar’s Constitution, Islamic law is the main source of law, and the country also operates Sharia courts.
Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, in October 2022, Human Rights Watch Qatar’s Preventive Security Department Forces reportedly arrested many members of the LGBTQ+ community and subjected them to “detentional treatment”.
The 2019 report on State Sponsored Homophobia by ILGA World – the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – noted that the death penalty is a possible punishment for homosexuality in Qatar, as well as in Mauritania, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan , and Afghanistan.
In 2016, Doha news published an article entitled What it’s like to be gay and Qatari following the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in the US last year. The piece sparked intense debate, and in one response, a Qatari netizen declared that “homosexuality is not tolerated” in Qatar.
In July 2018, ABC News Qatar is reportedly censoring LGBTQ+ rights coverage from the Doha edition of New York Times International Edition. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an American citizen in Qatar was sentenced to six months in prison and 90 lashes for “homosexual activity” in 1995. The sentence was carried out on June 6, 1995, and he was released from in prison on July 22, 1995. He left Qatar in March 1996. USCIS also added that in 1998, Qatar deported more than 20 Filipino workers suspected of being gay.
At the United Nations, Qatar voted against resolutions calling for protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.