US top envoy faults FIFA LGBTQ armband ban

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday called FIFA's ban on an armband promoting LGBTQ rights at the World Cup in Qatar concerning.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, on Tuesday, criticised FIFA’s decision to prohibit players from wearing a rainbow-coloured armband supporting LGBTQ rights at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

In Doha, Blinken told reporters that no team should have to decide between “supporting his values” and playing after seeing the United States draw 1-1 with Wales. After receiving threats of punishment from FIFA, the English, Germans, and five other European teams scrapped their plans to wear rainbow-themed “Onelove” armbands during the World Cup.

Because homosexuality is illegal in World Cup host Qatar, wearing the armbands was seen as a symbolic protest against the country’s policies. The FIFA decision has been panned across Europe. Blinken, when asked about the ban after meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, said, “It is always concerning when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression, especially when the expression is diversity.”

He said that nobody should have to choose between playing football and standing up for his beliefs.

Blinken, an avid football fan, flew into Doha on Monday for a quick 24-hour visit that included seeing the United States blow a one-goal lead in their tournament opener. The minister from Qatar said that his country had spent over 200 billion euros on infrastructure and other preparations for the World Cup but had been criticised because of “pre-conceived ideas” about conditions in the emirate.