Groundbreaking gay Aussie football Josh Cavallo has condemned FIFA for their stance on gay rights at the World Cup in Qatar in an emotional social media post.
It comes as the world’s most powerful sporting organisation threatened to ban captains, including England’s Harry Kane, Welsh superstar Gareth Bale, Belgium’s Eden Hazard and outspoken Danish skipper Christian Eriksen, who were set to wear the rainbow ‘One Love’ armband in protest at the Qatari regime’s oppressive lack of gay rights.
FIFA told players they would face sanctions, yellow cards or even be forced to leave the pitch if the armbands were worn.
Subsequently, a number of European football associations released a joint statement saying they couldn’t ‘put their players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions’.
Adelaide United star Josh Cavallo, who became Australia’s first openly gay male footballer after coming out last year, has slammed ‘draconian’ FIFA for their stance on LGBTI rights
England skipper Harry Kane was set to wear the One Love armband in all of the country’s games, but was forced to back down after FIFA announced it would ban any players who did so
It’s a situation that doesn’t sit well with Cavallo, who called FIFA ‘draconian’ for their stance banning the seven European captains from supporting gay rights.
The 23-year-old Adelaide United star came out as gay in October last year, and has since courageously become a poster boy for improving LGBTI+ rights across the sporting world.
He wrote a scathing social media post condemning the world football association – who have left many people scratching their heads about why on earth the Arab country was awarded the tournament in the first place.
‘FIFA. I love my identity. Seeing you have banned all teams to wear the One Love Armband to actively support LGBTQ+ at the World Cup, you have lost my respect,’ Cavallo posted on social media.
Josh Cavallo slammed the world football body for not making the sport a safe and inclusive place for gay people
‘All the work we’re doing to make football more inclusive you have shown that football isn’t a place for everyone.’
Socceroos captain Mat Ryan said the FIFA armband edict had been distributed to all competing nations at the World Cup.
‘I was informed it would result in a direct yellow card … I have got no comment. We made our statement with our players union. That’s all we can control,’ he said.
Ryan was among 16 Socceroos players who released an emotional video message prior to the World Cup, calling on the host nation to decriminalise same-sex relations.
Cavallo and his Adelaide United teammates wore a gay pride jersey earlier this year to promote inclusivity
‘As players, we fully support the rights of LGBTI+ people, but in Qatar people are not free to love the person they choose,’ the video, released on Socceroos’ social media pages in late October, said.
In a separate social media post, Cavallo addressed those fans, pundits and players who say footballers should stick to just playing sport instead of advocating for basic human rights.
‘It’s not the first time we’ve heard ‘stick to football.’ The attacks on the LGBTQ+ community from World Cup leaders affects so many who live in silence because of your draconian ways,’ he wrote.
‘To be a great leader in sport, one must never give up trying to bring ALL people together.’
Sadly, the spotlight on homosexuality being punishable by jail and death by stoning in Qatar is far from the only current tragedy affecting gay people.
Five people were murdered and 25 were injured during a mass shooting event at a gay nightclub in the USA on Sunday.
Prominent journalist Dan Savage explained why it is important people like Cavallo speak out about gay rights.
People who hate queer people want us to keep it private. Behind closed doors. Someplace they don’t have to see it. And the doors of a gay bar are doors we keep it behind,’ he wrote in a Twitter post.
‘(But) an attack like this says ‘not even here.’ Behind closed doors isn’t good enough for them. It’s not that they want us to exist out of sight. They don’t want us to exist at all.’
This was a point picked up by top Aussie cricketer Meghan Schutt – who has often faced a torrent of abuse for sharing herself openly and speaking up for LGBTQI+ rights.
‘We are constantly told not to ‘shove it in peoples faces’… yet attacks on our community continue, even when we stick to our space,’ the multiple World Cup-winning quick and Commonwealth Games gold medallist wrote.
The One Love armband came after a campaign in the Netherlands to promote inclusivity and diversity, not just in sport, but in general society
The OneLove campaign began in the Netherlands. Its symbol was a heart-shaped multi-coloured logo aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity in football and society.
The band contained the rainbow colours associated with the Pride flag and had been set to be a strong statement in Qatar.
Unfortunately, according to the ‘draconian’ FIFA rules, team equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images, and during competitions, the captain of each team ‘must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA’.
In an attempt to get some sort of positive press after being slammed for their OneLove armband stance, FIFA said on on Monday captains of all 32 teams ‘will have the opportunity’ to wear an armband with the slogan ‘No Discrimination’ in the group games.
FIFA will permit captains to wear a ‘No Discrimination’ armband, though not a rainbow One Love band
The governing body also refused Belgium permission to wear their second strip because of the word ‘Love’ in the collar, combined with a rainbow-coloured trim on the shirt.
If the word ‘Love’ is removed from the inside of the shirt, the team is allowed to wear it – a tiny expression of inclusivity was far too much for FIFA.
England and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand, now a prominent commentator, criticised the backdown from the seven European nations – including his own – who were set to wear the inclusivity band.
‘First bump in the road and they have folded like a pack of cards,’ he told the BBC.
‘You can’t win as a footballer. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you speak out, people say ‘you’re not a politician, be quiet, get back in your box’. If you speak out people say ‘oh, you’re a politician now?
‘It’s very difficult and that’s why federations have to be stronger and come together in a unified approach and say ‘this is where we stand’,’ Ferdinand said.
England legend Rio Ferdinand slammed the seven European countries for ‘folding like a pack of cards’ when told skippers would face bans for the rainbow armband
Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka was also set to wear the rainbow band before FIFA’s ban
But German federation president Bernd Neuendorf laid the blame squarely at the feet of the World Cup organisers, saying the move was an ‘outrageous demonstration of power from FIFA.’
The Dutch association agreed in an official statement: ‘The fact that FIFA wants to punish us on the pitch is unprecedented and goes against the spirit of the sport that unites millions.’
While the players may not be wearing the rainbow armband, that hasn’t stopped a commentator from doing so.
Former English star Alex Scott, who is in Qatar calling for the BBC, donned the ban in a defiant stance against FIFA’s edict to the players.
Many football fans took to social media to praise ‘absolute legend’ Scott for ‘making a bold statement’ by wearing the rainbow armband in support of the LGBT+ community
‘Well done to Alex Scott and BBCSport in standing up for what they believe in and sticking two fingers up to rules in wearing the One Love Armbands’,’ one fan wrote on social media in support of Scott.
It came on the same day US reporter Grant Wahl said he was refused entry to a World Cup stadium for wearing a rainbow shirt.
‘Just now: Security guard refusing to let me into the stadium for USA-Wales. ‘You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed’,’ he wrote in a post on his website.
Around 50 minutes later he posted again to reassure fans and social media users, revealing that he had been detained for almost half an hour.
He added: ‘I’m OK, but that was an unnecessary ordeal. Am in the media center, still wearing my shirt. Was detained for nearly half an hour. Go gays.’
American soccer reporter Grant Wahl claimed he was refused entry to a World Cup stadium in Qatar for wearing a rainbow t-shirt ahead of the US’s opener against Wales Monday
There are a select few nations competing at the World Cup who disagree with players taking a stand, however.
Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri, said it was important to respect the culture of the Muslim-majority Qatar.
‘We’re in an Arab country with Islamic traditions. We have to respect the culture and convictions of everybody. We’re in Qatar, they respect other cultures, religions and religious beliefs,’ the coach of the conservative Muslim country said.