Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022

FIFA’s threat of on-field fines for players wearing “One Love” armbands during the World Cup in Qatar is a “political decision to limit the freedom of expression of athletes,” Canada’s sports minister says.

Pascale St-Onge told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday that it was “unfortunate” that soccer’s international governing body had taken a hard line on the tapes.

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The captains of several European teams planned to wear rainbow-patterned armbands during the tournament, which was seen as a rebuke to host country Qatar’s human rights record and the criminalization of homosexuality.

“Sports organizations try to separate politics and sport, but decisions like this are also political decisions to limit the freedom of expression of athletes who want to share their solidarity with the LGBTQ community,” St-Onge said.

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“It’s an accident. Athletes should have the right to express their opinion, while at the same time protecting the sports environment and ensuring that all athletes can compete fairly.”

Click to play video: 'FIFA World Cup: LGBTQ+ treatment raises concerns over human rights record'

FIFA World Cup: LGBTQ+ treatment raises concerns over human rights record

On Monday, FIFA said it would issue yellow cards to captains who wear armbands not approved by the organization. This would mean that the player would start the game with a yellow, just one caution away from being sent off for that game and the next. European teams expected fines, the nations said in a joint statement.

According to FIFA rules, captains must wear a FIFA-issued captain’s armband for FIFA final competitions.

The issue of the armband was the latest dispute to threaten to overshadow the game on the field.

Since being named host in 2010, Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers and women and for stifling free speech. He has also come under fire for criminalizing homosexuality.

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England’s Harry Kane was pictured wearing the ‘One Love’ captain’s armband during the match on 23 September.

AP file photo

No one was wearing a “One Love” band on Monday. England’s Harry Kane wore the official FIFA “No Discrimination” armband around his arm during the match against Iran. The England team also knelt before kick-off as a gesture against racism. The team has been kneeling before games since 2020, first in solidarity with protests over the death of George Floyd, then in support of equality.

FIFA had previously proposed that captains wear armbands with socially conscious, if generic, slogans, with the “No Discrimination” armband appearing at the quarter-final stage. FIFA said on Monday that the captains of all 32 teams “will have the opportunity” to wear the “No Discrimination” armband in group matches.

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FIFA World Cup — Canada’s captain will wear a FIFA-sanctioned non-discrimination armband

Canada’s captain, Atiba Hutchinson, will wear the “No Discrimination” armband against Belgium on Wednesday. The Canadians did not specify whether they were planning any form of protest during the tournament. The decision for Hutchinson to wear the FIFA armband was made by the entire team, a Canada Soccer official told The Canadian Press.

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Defenseman Steven Vitoria told reporters Monday that the team is “always ready to help what we believe is right.”

“I don’t really want to get into those details, but I think our image of Canada as a country is always there to protect the good,” he said.

“It’s a sport, but life isn’t always a sport.”

Click to play video: 'FIFA president attacks Western 'hypocrisy' over Qatar World Cup'

The president of FIFA attacks the ‘hypocrisy’ of the West regarding the World Cup in Qatar

America’s top diplomat also criticized FIFA’s decision on Tuesday. Speaking alongside his Qatari counterpart at a press conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was “always troubling… when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression”.

“It’s especially so when the term is about diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said at the Diplomatic Club in Doha. “And in my judgment, at least no one on the football field should be forced to choose between upholding these values ​​and playing for their team.”

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FIFA said in a statement on Monday that it is “an inclusive organization that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but this must be done within the framework of the rules of the competition, which are known to all”. “

The statement added that FIFA president Gianni Infantino “reiterated his support for the LGBTQI+ community during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.”

— with files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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