Berliner Tageszeitung - 'OneLove' armband ditched at World Cup as England start campaign

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'OneLove' armband ditched at World Cup as England start campaign




'OneLove' armband ditched at World Cup as England start campaign
'OneLove' armband ditched at World Cup as England start campaign / Foto: © AFP

European heavyweights England and the Netherlands launch their World Cup campaigns on Monday as they and five other European nations abandoned plans to wear rainbow-themed armbands.

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The tournament was set to shift into a higher gear after a dispiriting defeat for host nation Qatar against Ecuador in the opening match on Sunday.

England captain Harry Kane and his Dutch counterpart Virgil van Dijk were set to wear the armbands in their games against Iran and Senegal respectively.

They have been widely viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

But the seven teams said they felt they had no choice but to abandon the plan because of the risk their captains would be punished by football's world governing body.

"FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play," the federations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland said in a statement.

They said they had been prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations because they had "a strong commitment to wearing the armband".

"However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play," they said.

England will be desperate to start strongly as they target an end to their decades-long trophy drought.

Gareth Southgate's men made a surprise run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals in Russia before reaching their first major final for 55 years at last year's European Championship.

Despite his success as England boss, Southgate has faced criticism over his perceived negative tactics.

"Our challenge is to give supporters a tournament that is memorable," Southgate said. "We have taken them on a fantastic ride in the last two tournaments."

The England v Iran game at Khalifa International Stadium takes place against the backdrop of deadly demonstrations in the Islamic republic.

Iran's clerical leadership has been shaken by more than two months of women-led protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman of Kurdish origin who had been arrested by the morality police in Tehran.

The Iran players will be watched closely for signs of any support for the protests.

Defender Ehsan Hajsafi said in the pre-match press conference: "They should know that we sympathise with them," adding that "conditions at home are not good".

- Ronaldo plays down United row -

Cristiano Ronaldo insisted that his recent row with Manchester United would not overshadow Portugal's preparations for their opening match with Ghana on Thursday.

Superstar Ronaldo will spearhead Portugal's attack at what will likely be his last World Cup, fresh from blasting United's owners and coach Erik ten Hag in a TV interview.

The 37-year-old has been reduced to a peripheral role at United this season and was suspended for a match after refusing to come on as a substitute against Tottenham last month.

"I have no doubt that this recent episode, that interview, and other episodes with other players that happen sometimes, can sometimes shake the player but won't shake the team," Ronaldo told reporters at the Portugal camp.

The other game in England's Group B pits the USA against Gareth Bale's Wales, playing in their first World Cup since 1958.

Captain Bale said he hoped to inspire a new generation of Welsh footballers.

"Everyone's dreamt of it for such a long time," said the former Real Madrid forward. "We've had so many close calls. For us to be the team to get over the line was incredible."

The Netherlands take on Senegal in Group A, with the African champions missing their injured talisman, Sadio Mane, who has been ruled out of the tournament.

The Dutch failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018 but the three-time runners-up are back in business under veteran manager Louis van Gaal, who led the team to the semi-finals in 2014.

Meanwhile the Qatari media slammed their team after they were beaten 2-0 by Ecuador on Sunday, becoming the first host nation to lose their opening match of a World Cup.

"Our players didn't perform as needed," the Al Watan daily said: "Our national team skipped the opening."

O. Karlsson--BTZ