FIFA on Monday rejected Belgium’s away kit, just hours prior to their World Cup opening match, because of one word — “love”.
ESPN reported a source stated the world governing body for soccer demanded that “love” be blocked out or removed from the Belgium jersey before it would be approved for play. In response, the Royal Belgian Football Association announced the team will wear their main red kit for the three group play matches.
“Kit” is the soccer term for uniform.
Belgium opens group play against Canada on Wednesday.
The design in question reportedly comes from a collaboration between the Royal Belgian Football Association and Belgium’s world-renowned music festival Tomorrowland.
This past summer, team supplier Adidas unveiled a line of clothing with Tomorrowland’s rainbow featuring multicolored designs figuring prominently on the apparel as a symbol of diversity, equality and inclusion.
The Red Devils (the nickname of Belgium’s national team) donned the special away kit in a UEFA Nations League match against The Netherlands on Sept. 25.
Some reports say that FIFA’s decision was not due to tensions over protest against Qatar’s law against LGBTQ people and expression. According to Reuters, RBFA spokesperson Stefan Van Loock said FIFA’s objection to the uniform was due to the commercial link to Tomorrowland in violation of FIFA uniform codes.
This news comes on the heels of seven European sides abandoning their decision to wear a special LGBTQ-support armband.
Red Devils captain Eden Hazard, along with the captains of England, Wales, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, canceled plans to wear the OneLove armband in their respective World Cup openers. FIFA threatened each with a yellow card to open every match if they wore the armband on the pitch.
Such a sanction would have a measurable effect on the tournament.
Two yellow cards during a match would mean ejection from that match, and the player is banned for the next match. Plus, two yellow cards in separate games also yields a one-game suspension in the following match. The cards accumulate through the group stages and the knockout round and are reset at the World Cup semifinal round.
The sport’s worldwide players’ union, FIFPRO, was critical of the sanctions.
“Players must have a right to express their support for human rights on and off the field of play and we will support any of them who will use their own platforms to do so,” according to a statement from FIFPRO. “We maintain that a rainbow flag is not a political statement but an endorsement of equality and thus a universal human right.”