'Red card for FIFA': Red Devils urged to take a stand for LGBTQI+ rights

Following Belgium's decision to back down from wearing the 'One Love' armband for LGBTQI+ rights at the World Cup in Qatar in fear of sporting sanctions, several Brussels organisations are giving the international football association FIFA a symbolic red card ahead of Belgium's game tonight.

The Brussels RainbowHouse and Brussels Gay Sports are calling on FIFA to unconditionally adhere to its commitments and values of combating all forms of discrimination and protecting human rights – in football and wider society. "We ask [FIFA president] Gianni Infantino to grant the Red Devils their freedom of expression by wearing the 'One Love' armband during all matches in Qatar for more inclusiveness in the world," the organisations said in a joint statement.

Before the start of the World Cup, seven European countries agreed that their team captains would wear the 'One Love' armband during games as a statement in defence of LGBTQ rights, as homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and people can face a maximum seven-year prison sentence. On Monday, however, all seven teams (England, Wales, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium) issued a joint statement saying that they would not go through with it, fearing sporting sanctions – such as a yellow card – from FIFA.

"Freedom of the press and freedom of association are very difficult to enforce in practice in Qatar. Unfair trials are held with allegations of torture and ill-treatment."

"Following Qatar's designation as a host country by FIFA in 2010, several human rights organisations have continued to denounce the numerous violations of international conventions," the Brussels organisations stated. "But freedom of the press and freedom of association are very difficult to enforce in practice in Qatar. Unfair trials are held with allegations of torture and ill-treatment."

They pointed to the fact that women are constantly discriminated against in Qatar, as well as to the labour rights violations of the many migrants who have worked on constructing the stadiums and tournament infrastructure in an unprecedented human disaster.

"LGBTQ people are discriminated against, their identities denied and criminalised. Members of the LGBTQ community are jailed for up to seven years and subjected to physical and verbal violence. The death penalty is applied to the Muslim population of this community," they stressed.

The organisations call on Belgian citizens and governments to fly the rainbow flag for the duration of the World Cup. "We ask activists and associations to come to RainbowHouse Brussels on Wednesday [before the Red Devils' first game] in the colours of the rainbow to give FIFA a red card." Additionally, the organisations are "strongly urging" national, European and international football federations to make human rights "a key criterion" in their bids to host men's and women's football championships in the future.

The Red Devils play Canada on Wednesday evening at 20:00 Belgian time.


Belgium's team captain Eden Hazard © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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