Belgian minister confronts Fifa president before revealing OneLove armband

Belgian minister Hadja Lahbib confronts Fifa president Gianni Infantino before revealing OneLove armband - Natacha Pisarenko/AP
Belgian minister Hadja Lahbib confronts Fifa president Gianni Infantino before revealing OneLove armband - Natacha Pisarenko/AP

The Belgian foreign minister confronted Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, before revealing she was wearing the banned  "OneLove" armband during Belgium’s World Cup victory over Canada in Qatar.

Hadja Lahbib took Mr Infantino to task over the decision to threaten seven European countries, including England and Wales, with an instant yellow card if their captains wore the OneLove rainbow, which symbolises inclusion and diversity.

"Gianni Infantino explained to me why he had made the choice not to allow the Red Devils to wear a 'One Love' armband, according to FIFA rules. These rules do not apply in the stands, so I took off my jacket and presented my armband," Ms Lahbib told the RTBF broadcaster after the match.

Belgium, nicknamed the Red Devils, Germany, England, Denmark, the Netherlands, Wales and Switzerland all backed down under the threat of sporting sanctions after planning to wear it in protest at Qatar’s human rights record.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and is punishable by up to three years in prison or even death. The tiny state has also faced criticism over its treatment of women and migrant workers.

Belgium supporters - Martin Meissner/AP
Belgium supporters - Martin Meissner/AP

Before Germany’s shock defeat to Japan, the German national side covered their hands with their mouths in a symbolic gesture they were being silenced.

The German foreign minister, like Ms Lahbib, also wore the OneLove armband in the stands, which will heap pressure on UK representatives to make a similar gesture of defiance

Ms Lahbib said that Eden Hazard, the captain, wanted to wear the armband. She added: "I think it was a strong symbolic gesture, that Belgium had to carry the message."

She posted a photo of herself applauding in the stands wearing the armband along with the message: "My heart goes out to our Red Devils."

Belgium, long one of the world’s most liberal countries when it comes to gay rights, squeaked a narrow 1-0 victory over Canada, which put the misfiring European side under pressure for long periods of the group stage game.

Mr Infantino accused the West of hypocrisy for its criticism of Qatar on the eve of the tournament.

"Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker," he said in a rambling speech that touched on his childhood experiences of being bullied for having red hair.