Gianni Infantino has defended FIFA’s stance on the ‘OneLove’ armband during the Qatar World Cup by suggesting football matches should be a time for everyone to ‘forget about their problems’ rather than create more of them .
Seven European nations taking part in the tournament – including England and Wales – planned to wear anti-discrimination armbands during matches but were dissuaded from doing so following the threat of sporting sanctions from FIFA.
England captain Harry Kane was due to wear the armband only for the decision to be made hours before kick-off in their opener against Iran that he should no longer do so.
The PA news agency understands the penalties could have been harsher with Kane – and other skippers – simply being shown a yellow card for wearing the kit and so it was ruled they should avoid such incidents .
Instead, FIFA introduced its own armband campaign which was originally due to start in the later stages of the tournament, with FIFA President Infantino calling for compliance with sporting regulations.
“It is not a question of prohibiting or not prohibiting. It’s about sticking to the regulations, we have regulations that say on the pitch, you play football and that’s what we did,” he said.
“Everyone is free to express their point of view, their opinion, their convictions, their way of believing, as long as it is done in a respectful way.
“When it comes to the pitch, the playing field, you have to respect the football, you have to respect the playing field and these regulations are there for exactly that.
“It’s not new, they are there for this reason to respect and protect the 211 football teams (under the banner of FIFA), not 211 heads of states, regimes or whatever.”
There have been incidents of fans being told they cannot access World Cup stadiums wearing rainbow attire, although FIFA have insisted this should not not be the case.
The deaths of migrant workers, a poor human rights record and the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar have all been aimed at them since the Gulf state first won the World Cup in 2010 .
Following the decision not to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband, the German players covered their mouths ahead of their first World Cup match.
Infantino said: “It’s 211 football teams and their fans who want to come and enjoy football and that’s what we’re here for and honestly I believe we stand for values, we stand for human rights , we defend the rights of everyone at FIFA, at the World Cup.
“But I also believe that those fans who come to the stadium – those 80,000, 70,000, 90,000 – and all those billions of fans who watch the World Cup on TV, maybe we should think about that and I tell everyone frankly, everyone has their own problems.
“They just want to spend 90 minutes or now 100 minutes or 105 minutes or whatever without having to think about anything other than just enjoying a little moment of pleasure and joy or at least emotion.
“That’s what we have to do. We need to give all of these people a time in their lives when they can forget about their own problems and enjoy football.
“Between and after competitions, during non-match competitions on the field of play, well, everyone can express their views and opinions as they wish. But let’s give this moment of joy to those who want to enjoy the game.”