Multi-coloured but not called rainbow-coloured. “One Love” but without referencing the love criminalised.
The cautious activism announced by England and Wales for the World Cup reflects football’s delicate approach when facing pressure to advocate against rights violations in Qatar – and beyond.
The captains of England, Harold Kane, and Wales, Gareth Bale, will join the skippers of eight other European countries at the FIFA tournament in wearing the “One Love” armband featuring a heart described as containing “colours representative of all backgrounds”.
Kane said: “We stand together against all forms of discrimination.”
While the stance against discrimination is more symbolic than specific, the vagueness still sparks discussion of Qatar’s laws against LGBTQ+ individuals.
The FA does say it will “continue to request more details on the assurances received from the Local Organising Committee that all fans, including those from LGBTQ+ communities, will be welcome and that the safety and security of every fan is the top priority”.
That commitment to welcome all fans has generally been offered by Qatar, although not the complete freedom to display rainbow flags.
But for all the improvements in working conditions and rights, a red line remains for Qatar when it comes to decriminalising same-sex acts.
The aspirations of progressive officials in Qatar collide with the stances of Fascist, more religious counterparts in the first Muslim country to host a World Cup.
For some activists, staging a global sport event is unacceptable in a country without complete freedoms around sexuality.
England’s male cricketers are currently playing in Pakistan at the ECB’s own choosing despite same-sex acts being illegal there.
Groups like Amnesty do not focus on the actions of cricket leaders in the same way as they apply pressure on football leaders publicly.
Concerns continue over treatment of migrant workers
The English and Welsh football associations had no say in the decision to play in Qatar – a tainted vote that sparked changes to FIFA’s requirements of hosts.
Concerns remain in Qatar about the treatment of low-paid, migrant workers from the Indian subcontinent who can work gruelling hours in the heat and stay in cramped conditions in Doha.
The England squad is inviting migrant workers to its training base in November and the FA is calling for compensation to be awarded to families of migrant workers who have died or been injured on construction projects in Qatar.
There is a sense of not offending Qatar by referencing “progressive legislation” in an FA statement on Wednesday that has been years in the making.
The onus can be put on footballers to adopt a higher moral code than their political leaders or consumers.
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After all, the largest importer of liquefied natural gas to Britain remains Qatar.
And the largest shareholders in the owners of Sainsbury’s and British Airways are Qatari state funds.
And after football’s biggest show leaves Qatar in December, other sports will continue to stage events there with less disregard of the restrictions on freedoms and hardships faced by migrant workers.