All protest requires risk – England need to find their backbone

Harry Kane with the One Love armband

The England team abandoned their plan for Harry Kane to wear an anti-discrimination armband (Picture: PA)

This year’s World Cup in Qatar is bad vibes and for lots of reasons.

For starters, it is being shown in the depths of winter, killing off the summer festival feel we have become accustomed to when the World Cup rolls around.

But there are far deeper issues this year than just a disappointing fan-zone experience.

The build up to the competition has been marred by a litany of controversies; from the allegations of ‘sportswashing’ (using sport to distract from murky political and humanitarian wrongdoing) to the human rights atrocities inflicted on the labourers building the stadiums. 

All of this played out against the backdrop of allegations of corruption and bribery that led to Qatar winning the right to host the World Cup in the first place.

And then there is Qatar’s record on LGBTQ+ rights. Homosexuality is criminalised in the conservative Muslim country, with same-sex relationships punishable with years in prison, or even the death penalty.

However, the presence of a global football competition, watched by millions around the world, creates an opportunity to spotlight these issues and demand change – at least, that was the argument posed by officials and governing bodies defending their country’s decision to attend the World Cup. 

But, one week into the competition, this isn’t how it’s playing out on the pitch.

The England team abandoned their plan for captain Harry Kane to wear an anti-discrimination armband during the games after FIFA announced players would face a booking a yellow card for taking part in the protest. 

All the other countries who had planned to wear the OneLove armband during their World Cup matches – including Wales and Germany – also agreed to U-turn on the decision.

The armbands, featuring a rainbow heart, are a symbol of acceptance and inclusion – they are a sign of solidarity to LGBTQ+ fans and players and a rejection of the Qatari laws that violate their human rights. 

The Germany team covered their mouths with their hands to suggest they had been gagged (Picture: PA)

To drop this symbol the moment there was a risk of consequences that could affect a team’s chance of winning a match, shows how the gesture was only ever superficial in the first place and renders it entirely meaningless.

A protest, which only goes ahead if nothing is risked, is not a protest at all. The act of protesting for what you believe in means – sometimes literally – putting yourself on the line, risking fines, arrests, violence – and yes, even a yellow card – to make sure your message is heard.

I’m disappointed in the nations that have caved and chosen not to wear the armbands – but I am not surprised. Their last-minute U-turn indicates that this ‘allyship’ with the LGBTQ+ community is empty and performative, but surely we already knew this the moment these nations agreed to play in a …read more

Source:: Metro


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