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OneLove: Virgil van Dijk and Jan Vertonghen react to armband controversy

Virgil van Dijk - Netherlands
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FIFA has threatened the World Cup teams with in-game consequences over the anti-discriminatory symbol.

Virgil van Dijk and Jan Vertonghen have explained why Netherlands and Belgium have decided against wearing the OneLove armband at World Cup.

The OneLove campaign promotes “inclusion and sends a message against discrimination of any kind”. Due to Qatar’s criminalisation of homosexuality, a number of European sides planned to use the captain armband with the campaign’s message at the World Cup.

However, after discussions with FIFA, an alliance of football associations decided not to use the armband. Widespread reports claim the captains wearing the OneLove armband could immediately receive a yellow card after the start of their respective games.

Speaking about the issue ahead of Belgium’s World Cup opener against Canada, Vertonghen said: “It’s a tough question. If it’s too late [to make a statement against discrimination], I don’t know. If you make a statement now by wearing it, that would mean punishing yourself.

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“But now I’m afraid to say anything. I don’t feel comfortable saying anything, and that’s telling enough, that we are put under pressure.

“That’s a regrettable situation that I’ve never experienced in football and I hope I won’t experience again.

“We are being controlled and I don’t really like making political statements anyway, but if you can’t even wear a captain’s armband with normal messages like ‘no to racism’, or ‘no to discrimination’, then hey, then what [can you say]?

“I shouldn’t be saying anything about it because tomorrow I want to appear at the game. It’s a pity that we have been put in this situation, and I want to leave it at that.”

‘We just want to play football’

European national teams faced criticism in the media for cancelling the use of the OneLove armband. But Netherland’s Van Dijk believes the possibility of receiving a yellow card is not a logical risk for him to take.

“I play in a position where a yellow card is not useful.” he told NOS. “I became a football player and I want to play these kind of tournaments.

“There are people who say we don’t have a backbone, but that’s not how it works.

“We just want to play football. I would have loved to play with that band, but not at the expense of a yellow card.”

It has been reported that captains could have faced a one-match ban if they had worn the OneLove armband.