Nov 26, 2022 - Sports

All the protests (so far) at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

The players of Iran line up for the national anthem prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales.

The players of Iran line up for the national anthem at the World Cup. Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

The FIFA World Cup in Qatar has not been short of protests — and there's still three weeks left.

The big picture: Players and nations have used the world stage to speak out against their own countries and the host nation of Qatar, which has been criticized for human rights abuses.

Details: FIFA said ahead of the tournament that every team should “focus on the football" instead of world affairs, per BBC News.

  • "We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a letter, per BBC.
  • “But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

But that hasn't been the case. Protests with potentially dangerous consequences have been happening throughout the tournament with real-world implications for countries inside and outside of the tournament. Here's a roundup of what we've seen so far.

OneLove armband

Seven European World Cup teams planned to wear rainbow OneLove armbands as a sign of inclusion and anti-discrimination, Axios reports.

  • But the teams —England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Wales — abandoned the idea after FIFA threatened to impose sporting sanctions on those who partook in the protest.

The decision to wear armbands was done in support of LGBTQ+ communities.

  • “It’s quite scary for LGBTQ+ communities around the world to see our lives be so controversial," Liz Ward, director of programs at LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, told CNN Sport. "It’s become this quite painful, drawn-out debate that is questioning on a global scale the validity of LGBTQ+ lives."

Germany protests FIFA decision

Germany's national team decided to protest FIFA's rainbow armband rule before its World Cup match against Japan last Wednesday, with team members covering their mouths during a photo, Axios reports.

  • "It wasn’t about making a political statement — human rights are nonnegotiable," the German team said in a statement posted on Twitter.
  • "That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice."

Iran stays silent during the national anthem

Iran's players stayed silent during the national anthem ahead of their match with England Monday, Axios' Dave Lawler writes.

What we know: The silence happened after the team captain, Ehsan Hajsafi, spoke in favor of the protests in Iran, which began after Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody after being arrested for an "improper hijab."

  • "They should know that we sympathize with them," Hajsafi said ahead of the England match. He added, "I hope the situation changes as the people wish and that everyone will be happy."
  • The team also wore black jackets over their kits before the match, in what was another sign of dissent against their home nation, according to Fox Sports.

The danger: Iranian authorities have arrested celebrities who have supported the protests.

Wales wave rainbow flag

Wales displayed rainbow flags at its training camp in Qatar, which was a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, according to BBC News. Homosexuality is illegal within Qatar.

  • Wales staff and supporters had their rainbow bucket hats confiscated at the World Cup as well, which has led to FIFA and Qatar having urgent talks about what is allowed and what isn't, per The Guardian.

More from Axios

Blinken criticizes FIFA's threats over rainbow armbands at World Cup

Germany protests FIFA's rainbow armband rule before World Cup match

The World Cup could become a hot bed for espionage

The tiniest World Cup host ever

Go deeper