By Issy Ronald, CNN
Ten European football teams — the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales — will participate in a season-long “OneLove” campaign promoting inclusion and opposing discrimination.
Every country except Sweden and Norway has qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and each captain of these eight nations will wear a distinctive OneLove armband — which features a heart containing colors from all backgrounds — during the tournament.
The Netherlands FA, which is spearheading the campaign, chose the colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities; the armband will be worn in Qatar where same-sex relationships are a criminal offense.
Sweden and Norway will participate in the initiative during the upcoming Nations League matches, while England will also wear black armbands during both its UEFA Nations League matches to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
“This is an important message which suits the game of football: on the field everybody is equal and this should be the case in every place in society. With the OneLove band we express this message,” said Virgil van Dijk, the Netherlands captain.
“On behalf of the Dutch team I have been wearing this band for quite a while now. It is good to see that other countries are joining this initiative.”
OneLove was founded in the Netherlands in 2020 to emphasize that all football fans have at least one thing in common — their love of football — and to speak out against any form of discrimination.
As well as focusing on public messaging, the initiative has also developed to offer diversity training to grassroots club.
“Our love of football unites us all. No matter where you come from, what you look like and who you love. Football is there for everyone and our sport must stand up for the people across the world who face discrimination and exclusion,” said Germany captain Manuel Neuer.
“I am proud to be sending out this message with my colleagues from the other national teams. Every single voice counts.”
In June, England’s captain Harry Kane revealed that he had discussed taking a collective stance regarding human rights in Qatar with Denmark’s Christian Eriksen and France captain Hugo Lloris.
“I am honored to join my fellow national team captains in supporting the important OneLove campaign,” he said on Tuesday.
“As captains we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination. This is even more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching.”
‘We continue to push for the principle of compensation’
The idea for this specific campaign originated within the UEFA Working Group initiative, which was established to respond to issues surrounding Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community.
Homosexuality is currently illegal in Qatar and punishable by up to three years in prison, while the Guardian reported last year that 6,500 migrant workers had died in the country in the ten years following Qatar’s successful bid to host the tournament in 2010, most of whom were involved in low-wage, dangerous labor, often undertaken in extreme heat.
The report — “categorically” denied by tournament organizer chief executive Nasser Al Khater — did not connect all 6,500 deaths with World Cup infrastructure projects and has not been independently verified by CNN.
In an interview with CNN last year, Al Khater also pointed to recent reforms Qatar has made to its labor structure.
“We continue to push for the principle of compensation for the families of migrant workers who have lost their lives or have been injured in construction projects,” the FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.
“Along with the other members of the UEFA Working Group on Human rights, we’re pushing FIFA for an update on the concept of a Migrant Workers’ Centre in Qatar, to provide advice and help for migrant workers. It’s clear that Qatar has brought in progressive legislation in the last few years to give workers rights, so this concept will help this legislation to take effect.”
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CNN’s Jack Bantock contributed to this report