FIFA has reportedly ordered Belgium to remove the word ‘love’ from the collar of their away kit just days before their World Cup campaign is set to begin. It is the second lawsuit soccer’s governing body has made today after threatening team captains with a reprimand if they choose to wear the OneLove armband in protest of Qatar’s human rights record.
Belgium will play their first game of the tournament on Wednesday against Canada at the Al Rayyan Stadium. The Red Devils are expected to battle for top spot in Group F with Croatia and their other rival Morocco, but have faced distractions as they prepare for the competition with FIFA objecting to their away kit.
The strip was designed in collaboration with Tomorrowland, the famous music festival held in Belgium. The nation wanted to make a ‘love’ jersey in preparation for the tournament in Qatar, so the word was added to the back neck of the away jersey. It has been on sale for months and proved popular in the country.
However, FIFA complained and ordered the Belgian FA to remove the word from the strip according to ESPN. The governing body is unwilling to negotiate on the issue and has categorically refused to discuss it with the federation.
It is still unclear whether or not Belgium will agree to FIFA’s request to remove the word with the nation set to wear the home jersey in all three of its group matches. The Belgian FA would have to order new shirts from kit maker Adidas if they complied, and none of their strips on Qatar ‘love’ for free.
The lawsuit comes just hours after FIFA told national team captains they would face sporting sanctions, including a booking and possible match bans if they chose to wear their OneLove captain’s armbands. The message is a protest against Qatar’s terrible record on LGBTQ+ rights, something that has been one of the main controversies of the tournament.
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Belgium would join England, Wales, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands in wearing the armband with national authorities ready to receive fines as punishment. However, once it became clear that the individuals would be sanctioned, they withdrew and instead wore a FIFA-approved “non-discrimination” armband.
Belgium are considered an outsider for the tournament despite placing third in 2018, as Roberto Martínez faces an aging team. Either Germany or Spain will likely wait in the round of 16 if they get there, which will be a very difficult task for the team to overcome.
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