Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish has hit out at the decision by FIFA to threaten countries into abandoning their support for the OneLove armband.

England captain Harry Kane – along with six other European skippers – planned to wear the armbands promoting inclusivity and LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar, a country which criminalises same-sex relationships.

But all seven countries backed down once FIFA threatened to book players who wore it.

Grealish came off the bench to score England’s final goal in their 6-2 thumping of Iran in their opening game of the 2022 World Cup on Monday.

After the match, Grealish said he felt it was ‘stupid’ why they couldn’t wear the armband.

He told ITV Sport: ‘Obviously we wanted to wear it. I think it’s a bit stupid why we couldn’t. Harry himself wanted to wear it, we all wanted Harry to wear it but sometimes in life and in football things are out of your control and there’s not much you can do about it.

‘I’ll be honest with you, I actually haven’t been in no meetings or anything about it. But from my point of view and everybody else’s in there, we all wanted Harry to wear it but I read before that he might get booked so there’s stuff out of your control.

‘But from me and all the lads we wanted Harry to wear it. We feel strongly about it, we’re with them [LGBT+ fans], we wish they were here with us. All I can say is we wanted to wear it, we feel the same way they do.’

The FA could not risk Kane being booked as it would have put him at risk of being suspended for later stages of the tournament.

Asked after the game, the Tottenham striker also insisted he was disappointed by the decision.

He said: ‘Yeah, I think we’re disappointed. I turned up to the stadium with the armband that I did wear and I was told I had to wear that.

‘Look, it’s out of our control as players. I’m sure the FA and FIFA will continue those discussions but most importantly today we focused on the game and got a great result.’

Eventually he wore one of FIFA’s own ‘no discrimination’ armbands. It is understood the Tottenham captain understood and accepted the FA’s stance.

The decision not to wear the OneLove armband though has been criticised by pundits.

Roy Keane told ITV Sport that England and Wales made a ‘big mistake’ and that Kane and Gareth Bale should have taken the yellow card in the opening game of the tournament.

Gary Neville meanwhile suggested that England boss Gareth Southgate and his coaching staff should wear the armband, with a different person wearing it each game.

The pundit tweeted: ‘Gareth game one, Steve Holland game two, Keeper coach game three, Physio game four. Etc.’

The FA released a statement on the situation, saying: ‘FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play.

‘As national federations we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.

‘We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband.

‘However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.

‘We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the OneLove armbands to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response.

‘Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.’

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