FIFA has tried to push the World Cup forward despite dealing with the barrage of criticism.
On Monday, seven European countries dropped plans to wear a rainbow armband signaling anti-discrimination and inclusion after FIFA threatened to punish them for doing so, including issuing automatic yellow cards.
England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland captains had planned to wear OneLove rainbow bracelets during their matches. But their respective football associations later said in a joint statement that they were “no longer able” to do so due to threats from FIFA.
“We were willing to pay fines that would normally be imposed for breaches of equipment regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband,” the federations said. “However, we must not put our players in a situation where they are cautioned or even forced to leave the field.”
On the eve of Sunday’s opening game, FIFA President Gianni Infantino slammed critics with an outrageous speech in which he claimed he understood the discrimination against marginalized groups because he was bullied as a child because of his red hair and freckles.
“Today I feel like a Qatari. Today I feel like an Arab. Today I feel like an African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel handicapped. Today I feel like a migrant worker,” said Infantino. “Of course I’m not Qatari, I’m not Arab, I’m not African, I’m not gay, I’m not disabled. But I feel like it because I know what it means to be discriminated against, to be bullied. “