At the 2022 Men’s World Cup, team captains from seven European nations (England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Denmark) had planned to wear “OneLove” rainbow armbands meant to support LGBTQ rights. This was an especially polarizing issue at the 2022 World Cup, since it was hosted by Qatar, which has strict anti-LGBTQ laws and where homosexuality remains illegal.

FIFA, soccer’s world governing body and the organizer of the World Cup, urged team captains not to wear the armbands, but the teams and their captains remained defiant. The conflict came to a head when just before the opening matches, FIFA announced that any player wearing the armband would be given a yellow card and asked to leave the field.

Fans, players, and the football associations of these seven European countries were upset. England’s Football Supporters Association, for instance, said: “Today we feel betrayed. Today we feel contempt for an organization that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance.” Some argued that the captains should still wear the armbands, despite the threat from FIFA. But others, including the football associations of the seven countries, had a different position. The Dutch Football Association’s statement was representative: “You don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card. That is why it is with a heavy heart that we as a UEFA working group… and as a team had to decide to abandon our plan.”

One further complicating factor is that while the importance of LGBTQ rights is relatively uncontroversial in some parts of the world, this is not the case in all parts of the world, including among some of the nations represented at the 2022 World Cup. For instance, in Senegal only 4% of the population report that they would tolerate having a neighbor who was homosexual. Similarly low rates of tolerance for homosexual neighbors are reported in Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon, and Ghana (ranging from 7%-19%), all of which participated in the World Cup. And in Ecuador and Costa Rica – also nations that participated in the tournament – support for same sex marriage is at 23% and 35%, respectively.

In light of these considerations, what should the captains of those seven European countries do?


— Discussions Questions —

Do the teams have an obligation to stand up for the rights of LGTBQ+ people by wearing the armbands? Might they have a special obligation to their team that outweighs this?

Is taking this stand by wearing the armbands in defiance of FIFA and the host country, Qatar, merely another instance of European cultural imperialism?