Ten European football teams – the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales – will take part in a seasonal ‘OneLove’ campaign promoting inclusion and fighting discrimination.
All countries except Sweden and Norway have qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and each captain of these eight nations will wear a distinctive OneLove armband throughout the tournament – featuring a heart with colors from all backgrounds.
The Dutch Football Association, which runs the campaign, chose the colors to represent all races, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities; The armband is worn in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are punishable by law.
Sweden and Norway will join the initiative during upcoming Nations League matches, while England will also wear black armbands during their two UEFA Nations League matches to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
“That’s an important message that fits football: everyone is equal on the pitch and that should be the case in every part of society. With the OneLove band we express this message,” said Virgil van Dijk, captain of the Netherlands.
“On behalf of the Dutch team, I have worn this ribbon for quite some time. It is good to see other countries joining this initiative.”
OneLove was founded in the Netherlands in 2020 to emphasize that all football fans have at least one thing in common – their love of football – and to speak out against any form of discrimination.
As well as focusing on the public message, the initiative also provides diversity training for grassroots clubs.
“The love of football unites us all. No matter where you are from, what you look like and who you love. Football is for everyone and our sport has to stand up for people all over the world who are exposed to discrimination and exclusion,” said captain Manuel Neuer.
“I’m proud to send this message out with my colleagues from the other national teams. Every single vote counts.”
In June, England captain Harry Kane announced he had spoken with Denmark’s Christian Eriksen and France’s Hugo Lloris about finding a common stance on human rights in Qatar.
“I am honored to join my fellow captains in supporting the important OneLove campaign,” he said on Tuesday.
“As captains, we all compete against each other on the pitch, but together we stand against any form of discrimination. This is all the more true at a time when division in society is commonplace. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message as the world watches.”
The idea for this particular campaign came as part of an initiative by UEFA’s working group, set up to respond to issues surrounding Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community.
Homosexuality is currently illegal in Qatar and carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, while the Guardian last year reported that 6,500 migrant workers in the country had died in the decade after Qatar’s successful bid to host the tournament in 2010, some of whom most died engaged in dangerous, low-wage work, often done in extreme heat.
The report – which was “categorically” denied by Nasser Al Khater, the tournament organizer’s chief executive – did not link all 6,500 deaths to World Cup infrastructure projects and was not independently verified by CNN.
In an interview with CNN last year, Al Khater also pointed to recent reforms Qatar has made to its work structure.
“We continue to push the principle of compensation for the families of migrant workers who have lost their lives or been injured on construction projects,” said FA chief Mark Bullingham.
“Together with the other members of the UEFA Human Rights Working Group, we are urging FIFA to update the concept of a migrant workers’ center in Qatar to offer advice and assistance to migrant workers. It is clear that Qatar has introduced progressive laws to grant workers’ rights in recent years, so this concept will help ensure that these laws take effect.”