Gary Neville has slammed FIFA and said England should have worn the rainbow OneLove armband against Iran in their opening World Cup 2022 fixture.
The ITV pundit was responding to the FA, who claimed FIFA's intervention to stop England wearing an armband in their opening game was “unprecedented”. Ian Wright, who was staunchly backing the England side to don the armband, too, was on the coverage alongside Neville and Keane.
“I’m done with it,” Wright said, exasperated, reasserting his position that, “there’s no protest without risk,” as he did in the aftermath of Germany’s team photo protest against Japan.
“It’s what I expect the FA would say, they’re a risk-averse organisation, always have been,” said Neville of the FA’s response to pulling out from the protest, “Doesn’t surprise me that FIFA have acted this way, they’re a rogue organisation and in this tournament, we’ve probably seen them at their worst. They don’t need to be that way, they represent world football – what’s an armband going to do to harm FIFA?
“I accept the fact that they have rules or laws about political protests. The reality is that I think they should have seen this through because they’ve spoken so much about it, they’ve backed themselves into a corner.
“I also [see] a situation where footballers are being asked a lot of these days. We’ve got footballers like [Marcus] Rashford who fought political battles and won, we’ve got Raheem Sterling who spoke out about racism and changed the landscape of how we discuss racism these days in football. It always seems to be footballers who are asked to speak out and put themselves at the forefront.
“Every single sector in the country that has a relationship with the Middle East or parts of the world where it’s illegal to be gay – they’re OK to keep doing it? I’m proud of those lads for England, they’re a great group of lads who have done more for this country in the last four, five years than most. But once you say you’re going to do something, you should follow through.”
“I agree,” Keane concurred. “If they feel that strongly about it, I don’t think there would have been points deductions, sanctions or threats. If you strongly believe it – they’ve been talking about it for a long time – stick to your guns.”
Neville himself has come under criticism for appearing on Qatari channel beIN, while Keane has told captains to back their beliefs and take their medicine over the armband protest.
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