Status: 11/21/2022 4:18 p.m
Under pressure from FIFA, major European football associations decide against wearing the “One Love” captain’s armband. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has thus won a battle in the power struggle against Europe.
On Sunday evening (November 20, 2022), Bernd Neuendorf, President of the German Football Association (DFB), confirmed that Manuel Neuer would wear the captain’s armband with the inscription “One Love” in the opening game of the World Cup against Japan. It is intended to be a sign of compliance with human rights and against any form of discrimination. He was even prepared to accept a fine for this.
Half a day later the bandage is cancelled. FIFA, which according to the rules provides the captain’s armbands at the World Cup, has prevailed. In a statement from the DFB, Neuendorf spoke of an “unprecedented event in World Cup history”. And another chapter in the power struggle between FIFA and the European associations.
Neuendorf: “A demonstration of power by FIFA”
At a media event at the DFB team camp in northern Qatar, Neuendorf said: “From my point of view, this is a demonstration of power by FIFA.” In the relationship between the European associations and FIFA, this is “certainly a new low blow”. FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura made it clear with regard to the “One Love” bandage “that we not only have to reckon with sanctions, but with sporting sanctions,” said Neuendorf.
DFB President Bernd Neuendorf: “An unprecedented event in World Cup history.”
Image: Christian Charisius/dpa
Not actually covered by the rules of the game, there were yellow cards in the room. Further penalties from the FIFA Disciplinary Committee were also feared. The associations from Germany, England, Wales, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark finally announced a few hours before England’s game against Iran that they would no longer wear the armband. They are “frustrated and disappointed,” write the associations.
FIFA took a less emotional position. The regulations of the World Cup have been approved by everyone involved and they apply to everyone, it said in a statement. And it serves to maintain the integrity of the pitch for all participants. The requirement: not everyone should be able to do what they want. FIFA publicly announced a compromise and preferred the “No Discrimination” armband planned for the quarter-finals, England’s Harry Kane wore that armband against Iran.
England captain Harry Kane with a armband reading ‘No Discrimination’
Image: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
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FIFA versus UEFA: sport policy has been at odds for years
But in the end it was hardly about the bandage but rather about the power struggle. Europe, also led by UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, has stood together with South America in almost every decision against Infantino and his entourage in recent years. That affected almost all plans: the expanded Club World Cup, a global Nations League and, above all, the two-year rhythm of the men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments, which Infantino pushed forward. The conflicts always revolved around appointments – and thus money. Only rarely did Infantino prevail against the Europeans.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin (l.) and FIFA President Gianni Infantino (r.)
Image: imago images/PA Images
Even the vote on the awarding of the 2023 Women’s World Cup in the FIFA Council became a political issue in 2020, when all Europeans and South Americans spoke out against Infantino’s preferred bid from New Zealand and Australia and in favor of Colombia (which received lower ratings in test reports). Notably, even the then English representative, Greg Clarke, voted against the two members of the Commonwealth to keep the bloc. He is said to have rejected calls from New Zealand’s prime ministers in advance – all for the power struggle.
Infantino: a lot of support around the world, rather little in Europe
Now the UEFA working group on human rights and labor law, founded in June 2021 with a view to the World Cup in Qatar, openly challenged FIFA: with a captain’s armband, which has a colorful heart and the inscription “One Love” at least between the lines, the host of FIFA -Tournament criticized for homophobia, dealing with guest workers or the lack of women’s rights. FIFA averted that, but the controversy remains.
The FIFA Congress will be held in Rwanda in March. While confederations such as Africa, Asia and even South America have long since assured Infantino their support for a third and, according to the current statutes, last term as FIFA President from 2023 to 2027, there is no such closed affection from Europe at all. The DFB recently refused to openly follow.