A row over Harry Kane wearing the ‘OneLove’ rainbow armband for England’s World Cup opener deepened this morning as the FA admitted the threat of a yellow card could prompt them to ‘work out if there was another way to show support’.
The armband is a show of solidarity for the LGBT+ community and captain Kane has said he wants to wear it at kick-off at 1pm. Homosexuality is still illegal in Qatar.
But FIFA has strict rules about apparel that can be worn by players and the armband is not allowed under the code.
It means Kane could face an immediate yellow card this afternoon if he walks out wearing the ‘OneLove’ band.
If he wears it again in their second match, the skipper could be slapped with another yellow card, automatically banning him from the third game.
Talks were still continuing this morning, but FA chief exec Mark Bullingham said the threat of a sporting sanction could make the team reconsider.
He admitted: ‘It is a very live situation and there are discussions that are carrying on and we are working through those issues right now.
‘It is true to say FIFA did indicate yesterday that there could be sporting sanctions and that is obviously something we need to work through
Harry Kane has already been pictured wearing the OneLove armband while training in Qatar, ahead of England’s match against Iran
Captain Harry Kane has been vocal about his support for wearing the armband and was seen sporting it during training on Sunday
Mark Bullingham, CEO of The Football Association, said this morning talks were still ongoing
‘We’ve been clear that we want to wear the armband it is important to us, but equally we need to work through all of the discussions right now and see where we end up.
‘That’s what we are working through right now, we’ve had meetings this morning FIFA and discussion are carrying on. As I’ve said we are very keen to wear the armband, we want to do it, but obviously we need to consider the implications
‘Normally in this type of situation there is a fine. We’d be prepared to pay the fine because we think it’s important to show our support for inclusion.
‘If the sporting sanctions threat is real then we need to look at that – we need to step back and work out if there is another way in which we can show our values,’ he told Radio 4.
The team has already been cleared to take the knee by the authorities.
But the armband is the latest in a series of controversies in recent days, including a last minute alcohol ban, a largely empty stadium for the opening ceremony and thousands of people involved in a crush to enter FIFA fan zones.
Kane has said: ‘We have made it clear as a team, staff and organisation that we want to wear the armband. I know the FA are talking to FIFA and by game time they will have had their decision.
There were scores of empty seats in the stadium during the opening ceremony of FIFA World Cup ahead of the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador
Former England captain David Beckham, who has come under criticism for his role as an ambassador for Qatar, was pictured in one of the executive boxes at the stadium tonight
Head coach Gareth Southgate added: ‘I know there are some conversations going on. A number of the European countries have spoken. We have made our position clear, so hopefully everything will be resolved before the game.’
Fan Alex Major, 20, from North London said: ‘Good for Harry Kane, but if he gets booked in two games, he’ll be suspended and that’s too much of a price to pay.’
The Arsenal fan added: ‘It could damage our World Cup hopes and cost us a lot.’
His father, John added. ‘ I have been to a lot of world cups. But the excitement of this one is just not the same.
‘I admire Harry Kane for taking a stance. But I wouldn’t be very happy if we ended up missing the match.
‘He’s our best player. We need every player to fight as best as they can to bring the World Cup home.’
Carole Brocklesby,59, from Hull said: ‘Everone is behind England. There aren’t that many fans here. But my husband, Paul and I just had to come.
‘We’ve spent about £50,000, but worth every penny. If we win the World Cup.
Paul.68, said: ‘Every England fan here in Qatar has paid a lot of money and really loves the players and the team.
‘Obviously our supporters are behind them and we keep saying ‘come on England come on England ‘and we will throughout the match today.
‘But if Harry Kane gets himself booked twice, because of the arm band, then I’m afraid I don’t agree with that. It’s about the team and their supporters and trying to win the trophy.’
Last night the standoff had continued, but England’s Football Association remained firm on taking a moral stand over wearing the rainbow armband, which is intended to signal respect for gay rights and equality in general.
Rows of empty seats were visible behind Morgan Freeman as he narrates the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar
England coach Gareth Southgate said he hopes ‘everything will be resolved before the game’ and said the team had made their feelings on the matter clear
The latest row comes after the competition got off to a tumultuous start on Sunday as it was officially opened by Morgan Freeman in a spectacular opening ceremony.
The actor, 85, who four years ago apologised following accusations of sexual harassment, raised eyebrows narrated a toe-curling segment titled The Calling, telling hundreds of millions of people watching around the world: ‘We all gather here in one big tribe.’
When the action on the pitch finally began, two seconds early as the referee did not wait for the stadium countdown to be over, there was bad news for the host nation.
Watched by the Gulf state’s royals and David Beckham, the home side lost 0-2 to Ecuador, whose fans mocked Qatar’s alcohol ban by chanting ‘queremos cerveza’, or ‘we want beer’. Beckham, who has been criticised for being a paid ambassador to the Qatar World Cup, watched from the VIP seats.
The oil-rich nation has faced a barrage of criticism over its treatment of foreign workers, LGBT rights and social restrictions, staking its reputation on delivering a smooth tournament. It has been accused of trying to stage manage the World Cup with ‘fake fans’ to spin positive coverage.
The Football Association, who also confirmed England’s players will take the knee during the tournament, are determined for skipper Kane to wear the armband as a gesture of equality at a tournament that has been overshadowed in negativity over Qatar’s human rights record.
The FA had expected a fine for breaching FIFA’s statutes but the prospect of Kane being booked, and hence facing a suspension, was a scenario English football’s governing body were concerned about.
The England vowed to lift the gloom back home and ‘bring some real happiness’. He pledged to ‘deliver’ – and also promised that the team had been practising penalties, to avoid the traditional misery the team inflicts on the nation.
Alex Major and his father John before England’s big game today, which kicks off 1pm UK time
Thousands of England fans are in Qatar for the match – although this is expected to peak for the Wales game
England are one of nine countries wearing the ‘One Love’ armband. Indeed, news of a possible booking also reached the Germany and Holland camp.
Holland skipper Virgil van Dijk said ahead of his side’s game versus Senegal: ‘Nothing changed from our point of view. If I will get a yellow card for wearing it then we would have to discuss it because I don’t like to play while being on a yellow.’
The teams are understood to be putting pressure on FIFA to allow the armbands due to the conservative social norms that exist in Qatar. But FIFA have already been forced to give in to Qatari officials on key promises such as alcohol sales in a bid to keep the hosts on side.
Yesterday, thousands of empty seats could be seen during the ceremony, but after the opening match kicked off at 4pm UK time, the stadium – designed to resemble a traditional Bedouin tent – appeared to suddenly fill, with many seats taken by the show’s performers.
Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, presided over the ceremony, flanked by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who has drawn ridicule by branding European nations racist – and saying he understood discrimination because he grew up with ginger hair and freckles.
Last night’s glitzy show, also featuring Jung Kook of South Korean boy band BTS, was intended to draw a line under the controversies. But even as it unfolded, riot police were called to tackle crowd chaos at a fan zone in the capital.
A crush of tens of thousands of fans pushed and shoved against police lines to enter the Fifa Fan Festival on Doha’s Corniche, which has a giant TV screen for viewing matches and a beer tent. Riot police armed with batons and shields stood guard as supporters pleaded with officers to let them through. ‘It’s very risky – people could die,’ said one, Hatem El-Berarri.
He said: ‘Old people, women, they cannot handle crowds like this.’ In a further blow to organisers, Colombian star Maluma, who sings on the World Cup’s official anthem, stormed out of a TV interview after being accused of ‘whitewashing’ human rights abuses in Qatar.
During the show, in a pointed riposte to criticism over Qatar’s human rights record, Freeman put on an act with 20-year-old entrepreneur and influencer Ghanim al Muftah, who was born with caudal regression syndrome, a rare disorder which impairs the development of the lower spine.
He said to the Hollywood star: ‘Come on over.’ When Freeman replied ‘I’m not sure, am I welcome?’, al Muftah said: ‘We sent out the call because everyone is welcome. This is an invitation to the whole world.’ Freeman, whose films include Hollywood classic The Shawshank Redemption, told crowds in the Al Bayt stadium: ‘How can so many countries, languages and cultures come together, if only one way is accepted?’
Last week, Qatar’s Supreme Committee, run by the country’s morality sheikhs, slapped a last-minute ban on beer in the stadiums.
Yesterday official sponsor Budweiser released a photo of tens of thousands of cans stacked in a warehouse, offering to give it all away to the World Cup winners. Morgan’s appearance at the ceremony comes four years after he was accused of sexual misconduct by eight women and issued an apology to ‘anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected’ by his behaviour, saying it was ‘never my intent’.
Football fans reacted with fury on social media, with one remarking acidly: ‘It is so disappointing to see Morgan Freeman take the money and support an oppressive regime.’ Qatar last night said the crowd incident arose after the main gate was temporarily closed because the venue had reached capacity early.