Football World Cup: Players hit out at FIFA indecision over 'OneLove' rainbow armbands for 2023 NZ tournament

One of the biggest controversies of last year's men's Football World Cup in Qatar threatens to rear its head once again, when the game's best women come to New Zealand and Australia in July.

World governing body FIFA is reportedly discussing another possible World Cup ban of 'OneLove' rainbow armbands, worn by team captains to support LGBTQ+ communities.

Players hope the decision will put FIFA on the right side of history.

The prized trophy itself has been winging its way around the world, but where the World Cup goes, controversy isn't usually too far behind.

Once again, the rules around the 'OneLove' rainbow armbands are under the spotlight.

"I think we should be able to wear whatever we believe in," said Football Ferns midfielder Betsy Hassett. "I hope [a ban] doesn't happen."

The issue overshadowed the start of the men's tournament in 2022. Several teams, including England and Germany, backed down from wearing the armbands, after FIFA threatened individuals with yellow cards if they did.

FIFA opposes political messages, although this is arguably not political at all.

"It's really important to distinguish," said NZPF representative Anna Green. "I don't think this is a political message, I don't think it's a religious message... it's a humanitarian message."

Reaction isn't limited to New Zealand, with some of the world's biggest names adding their voices to the cause.

"I don't understand the decision," said Chelsea and Sweden defender Magdalena Eriksson. "Hopefully we can raise our voices and change it."

Just last month, FIFA opted against a proposed World Cup sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia - a country long criticised for its women's rights record - but the governing body insists no final decision has been made about the armbands.

Meanwhile, NZ Football says steps will be taken to include the LGBT+ community during the biggest sporting event played on home soil. 

"We understand that FIFA haven't made any decisions in regards to captains armbands during the tournament," NZ Football said. 

Belgium's Eden Hazard with the 'OneLove' armband.
Belgium's Eden Hazard with the 'OneLove' armband. Photo credit: Getty Images

"But we look forward to working with them to celebrate the rainbow community, as well as other groups that make up our diverse and welcoming footballing whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand, throughout the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023."

The players have made their position perfectly clear on what the armbands will mean. 

"Footballers should be able to support that community," continued Hassett. "Equality is so important.

"It's cool to be able to support everyone in that."

That support would ensure the race to claim the World Cup takes centrestage when the tournament begins in July.