FIFA has tried to push ahead with the World Cup despite a barrage of criticism.
On Monday, seven European nations scrapped plans to wear rainbow armbands to symbolize anti-discrimination and inclusion, with FIFA threatening to punish them, including handing them automatic yellow cards.
England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland captains plan to wear OneLove rainbow armbands at their matches. But the respective soccer associations later said in a joint statement that they could no longer do so because of FIFA threats.
“We are willing to pay the fines normally applicable to violations of the kit rules and have a strong commitment to wear the armband,” the associations said. “However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they can be booked or leave the field of play.”
On the eve of Sunday’s opening match, FIFA president Gianni Infantino hit back at critics in a fiery speech in which he said he understood discrimination against marginalized groups because he was bullied as a child for having red hair and freckles.
“Today, I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I am disabled. Today I am a migrant worker,” Infantino said. “Of course, I’m not Qatari, I’m not Arab, I’m not African, I’m not gay, I’m not disabled. But I feel like that, because I know what it means to be discriminated against, to be persecuted.”