The Qatar World Cup was a nadir for everybody who believed in fighting for LGBTQ inclusion in sports.
Most embarrassingly: when six nations attempted to advocate for equality by wearing “OneLove” armbands on the pitch, FIFA threatened yellow cards for their captains in order to make them back down.
Perhaps nothing defined the 2022 World Cup more than FIFA’s decision that love was unsportsmanlike conduct.
With the 2023 Women’s World Cup on the horizon, the question then becomes: will FIFA continue its policy of penalizing advocacy with its signature event taking place in Australia, a more LGBTQ friendly country?
Based on early indications, there’s reason to be optimistic this tournament will be different.
For starters, Football Australia is taking the lead in reaching out to FIFA about the issue, and its Chief Executive James Johnson sounds more amenable to the concept than any Qatari World Cup official.
In a conversation with The Observer, Johnson sounded an upbeat tone.
“We’ve had very good dialogue with FIFA and it’s meaningful,” he said. “They are not paying lip service to this. We’re in the middle of that process and we’re pretty confident we’ll end up in a good place: a place where players have the ability to express themselves in certain areas, which keeps the players happy, it keeps the host nation happy, and it keeps FIFA happy as well.”
That last part might be laying it on a bit thick, considering FIFA seemed quite happy muzzling its players last year.
But Johnson is still in the process of negotiating this issues, so his diplomacy is understandable.
Johnson further clarified his dialogue with FIFA revolved around players being allowed to wear armbands that amplify their social causes.
“So if we’re talking about Australian players, it’s obviously LGBTQ+ and Indigenous rights,” he said.
Johnson went on to predict players would be allowed to wear rainbow armbands during tournament play.
“Australia and New Zealand are countries where inclusion is really part of our DNA,” he said. “And we want to ensure that in a competition held in our countries, that value is reflective of what the tournament stands for.”
Sounds like good reason to have hope. We’re light years away from a Qatari World Cup ambassador declaring homosexuality is “damage in the mind.”
If armbands and other inclusive symbols are allowed, the Women’s World Cup will be much the better for it — especially for LGBTQ fans.