The controversial ‘OneLove’ armband saga descended into farce on the eve of England’s World Cup opener against Iran amid concerns captain Harry Kane could be booked if he wears it.
The Football Association, who confirmed England’s players will take the knee during the tournament, are determined for skipper Kane to wear the armband as a gesture of equality at a tournament that has been overshadowed in negativity over Qatar’s human rights record. Homosexuality is outlawed in the host nation.
However, FA chiefs were on Sunday night concerned about the possibility of Kane being shown a yellow card if he wears the armband as planned because doing so would contravene FIFA’s laws.
English football executives are seeking clarity from FIFA about the punishments that could be meted out if they follow through with their decision.
The FA expected a fine for breaching FIFA’s statutes but the prospect of Kane – arguably England’s most important player – being booked, and hence facing a suspension, was a scenario English football’s governing body were concerned about.
Kane said: ‘We have made it clear as a team, staff and organisation that we want to wear the armband. I know the FA are talking to FIFA and by game time they will have had their decision.
Head coach Gareth Southgate added: ‘I know there are some conversations going on. A number of the European countries have spoken.
‘We have made our position clear, so hopefully everything will be resolved before the game.’
England are one of nine countries wearing the ‘One Love’ armband. Indeed, news of a possible booking also reached the Germany and Holland camp.
Holland skipper Virgil van Dijk said ahead of his side’s game versus Senegal: ‘Nothing changed from our point of view.
‘If I will get a yellow card for wearing it then we would have to discuss it because I don’t like to play while being on a yellow.’
The confusion overshadowed the start of England’s World Cup campaign here in Doha, as Southgate claimed that his players have made the ‘impossible possible’ as his team begin their adventure on Monday.
Following years in the international football’s doldrums, England head into Monday afternoon’s opener against Iran as genuine contenders to lift the trophy at the Lusail Stadium on December 18.
Having finished fourth at World Cup 2018, the national team followed up their impressive showing in Russia by finishing runners-up at last year’s European Championships.
As a result the position as England manager – famously referred to as the Impossible Job in the mid 1990s – is now one of the most coveted positions in world football.
Indeed, Mauricio Pochettino last week admitted he would be open to replacing Southgate, while Thomas Tuchel is also believed to be interested.
And when asked about the interest in his job, Southgate – who has the expression ‘Anything Is Possible’ stitched into a special pair of World Cup trainers – replied: ‘Maybe we’ve made the impossible just look possible.
‘Maybe we’ve made it look possible and it’s exciting for other people and I can understand that. We want England to be competitive for years to come and I believe that our academy system has got that.
‘We have also got some good players and we should be competitive for the next six, eight years with this group.’
Despite the relative success England have achieved under Southgate, the ultimate ambition remains to win the nation’s first trophy since 1966.
Indeed, on the eve of the England’s opener here in Doha, Southgate has urged his team to replicate the sustained success of arch rivals Germany.
The Germans have a rich history of success in major tournaments and Southgate said: ‘It is hard to talk about form because you are always six weeks, two months between games in international football so what actually is form?
‘What there is, is pedigree. We want to be a Germany, who when I was looking at their Wikipedia page: four golds, four silvers, four bronzes, European Championships three golds, three silvers, three bronzes.
‘Our page didn’t quite look like that but we’d love it if it did in 40 years’ time and that should be our aim, to be consistently challenging.’