Football Australia CEO James Johnson admitted Australia would have liked a rainbow armband option to be available for captains at the Women’s World Cup but acknowledged the improvement made by FIFA in the space from 2022 to 2023.
Speaking from the Matildas’ training base in Brisbane, Johnson spoke about the more proactive approach football’s governing body took in dealing with armbands ahead of the Women’s World Cup.
This came in light of the furore that erupted last year after captains from seven European nations were banned from wearing the “OneLove” armbands at the last minute in Qatar.
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“It was important to us and we wanted to solve the issue before it became an issue because we know there were issues as the World Cup in Qatar was kicking off,” Johnsons said.
“We welcome the armbands framework that FIFA have put in place because it’s broad and it allows players to select an issue that they care about.
“On the other hand, we do acknowledge they didn’t go as far and specifically focus on LGBTQI. So we’re aware of that. Our players are aware of that. Our voice in the process was heard, as was our players, and we were always aligned with our players.”
“Would we have liked to have seen it go a bit further? Yeah of course but we do have to recognise that there was improvement made since the last [men’s] World Cup and we welcome that.”
At the Matildas squad announcement, captain Sam Kerr spoke of how she expected no changes from the men’s World Cup to the Women’s World Cup in relation to the rainbow armbands.
“I didn’t expect them to change it. Obviously, we would love to wear it … like most of the teams in the whole world, everyone has voiced that they would love to wear it,” she said.
“But I think you saw at the men’s World Cup, Harry Kane, for example — first game, if he had worn it, yellow card. If he got a yellow card in the game, he would have been sent off. For me, it’s not worth the risk of putting the team at risk, putting the tournament at risk, putting everything at risk.
“There will be multiple opportunities where we get to use our voice like we did in that game. And there’ll be multiple opportunities where I get to use my voice for things.
“Obviously, we would have liked to have worn it, but I’m not going to put this team at risk. We have to abide by the rules we’ve been given.”
Both players and Football Australia were consulted by FIFA around which social causes should adorn the armbands with Johnson explaining the process.
“There’s different processes that took place. There was one where our players were involved in,” he said.
“The one that we were involved in was, it was twofold, one was as the host and one was as an association that cares about these issues.”
Australia was involved in these discussions alongside nations like England, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
“I didn’t feel at any time that it was a process that had an outcome already defined. I saw, as did other countries, different evolutions of the armbands and I think where the conversation started to where it ended there was definitely improvement.”
“I think that we’ve landed in a place that is acceptable. Having said that though, it didn’t go as far as what we would have liked.”
The eight approved social causes that captains can choose to wear for this World Cup are: inclusion, Indigenous people, gender equality, peace, education for all, zero hunger, ending violence against women, and football is joy, peace, love, hope & passion.
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