France may join England in making controversial World Cup statement

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French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera has insisted that the France national team could follow in England’s footsteps by wearing an inclusive captain’s armband at the World Cup. Three Lions skipper Harry Kane is set to don a special multicoloured version of the usual armband over the course of the tournament in Qatar, a country that enforces draconian laws against homosexuality and has been widely criticised for its approach to human rights in the build-up to the competition.

The FA submitted a request to FIFA for England to sport the armband earlier this year but are yet to receive a response, although they are expected to be fined after underlining their plans to wear it regardless of whether or not they are given permission to do so. Oudea-Castera has since insisted that France could follow suit if they do not hear from FIFA before their first game against Australia in Group D on Tuesday.

“I think the subject isn’t close, because FIFA still have [not] said anything,” she said. “We thought they’d ban it a few days ago. For now, they still haven’t said anything, but it is imminent.”

An initiative by UEFA during the September international break saw captains of many teams wearing multicoloured armbands in a show of support against all forms of discrimination. However, it remains to be seen whether France skipper Hugo Lloris would be willing to pull on a similar armband to that of his England counterpart in Qatar after underlining his desire to respect the rules of the host nation over the course of the World Cup.

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“Before we start anything, we need the agreement of FIFA, the agreement of the federation,” said Lloris. “Of course, I have my personal opinion on the topic, and it’s quite close to the [French federation] president’s.

“When we are in France, when we welcome foreigners, we often want them to follow our rules, to respect our culture, and I will do the same when I go to Qatar, quite simply. I can agree or disagree with their ideas, but I have to show respect.”

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The armband set to be worn by England captain Kane in Qatar does not directly reference the country’s laws against homosexuality but is intended to promote inclusivity despite FIFA usually banning the addition of unsanctioned slogans to kits. FA chief executive Mark Bullingham recently told Sky News that he is expecting to be punished by world football’s governing body when Kane dons the armband, which will feature a multicoloured design with a multicoloured heart in the middle.

“They haven’t given us any response to our letter,” said Bullingham. “I think there’s a possibility that we might be fined, and if we are, then we’ll pay the fine. We think it’s really important to show our values and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

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