As much as the action on the pitch has captivated fans across the world, the 2022 World Cup has also made important headlines for incidents off the pitch.
The decision to award Qatar the tournament hosting rights more than a decade ago was met with heaps of controversy due to bribery accusations, worker conditions and human rights laws.
Since the tournament kicked off on Nov. 20, the first week has seen various countries express their distaste while also making the most of the spotlight to highlight other political issues.
In case you missed it, here is what was brought to light as the tournament progresses and teams move away from big statements.
IRAN GAMES CONNECTED WITH POLITICAL PROTESTS
Early on in the tournament, Iran’s national team made headlines after refusing to sing the national anthem before kickoff in its opener against England.
The demonstration has been linked with the political struggles back in Iran as the country is experiencing heavy protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by Iran’s morality police.
Iran’s opening match ended in a 6-2 defeat, and the tables then turned in its second match against Wales, which they won 2-0.
The players reversed their initial decision and did sing the national anthem this time. Fans continued to show mixed signs of support and distaste with images of Amini appearing throughout the stands.
Iran takes on the United States on Tuesday in what is expected to be a fiery clash off and on the pitch. Pre-game media duties on Monday saw politics, immigration, naval warfare, racism, discrimination, xenophobia and, finally, soccer discussed.
‘ONE LOVE’ ARMBAND BATTLE FALLS SHORT
The captains of seven European nations including Germany, England and Netherlands, were prepared to wear the “One Love” armbands during matches to protest Qatar’s mistreatment towards LGBTQ2S+ individuals.
However, FIFA decided mere hours before kickoff that any captain who wore the politically-fueled armband would automatically pick up a yellow card.
The seven European nations subsequently reversed their decision.
“Our No. 1 priority at the World Cup is to win the games,” the Dutch soccer federation said. “Then you don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card.”
Since then, no player has actually worn the “One Love” armband on the pitch. Some players, including England’s Harry Kane, have instead worn a “No Discrimination” armband.
Additionally, Qatar’s security teams in place at stadiums grounds were initially removing any rainbow items from fans. According to a report from the Independent last Friday, that decision has now been reversed.
GERMANY’S STATEMENT TEAM PHOTO
Following the sanction suggestions from FIFA over the “One Love” armbands, Germany continued to share its disapproval of Qatar’s human rights record in a silent protest.
During its opener against Japan, where they suffered a shock 2-1 loss, the team photo featured all starting 11 players covering their mouths in protest.
“We may have our bands taken away from us, but we’ll never let our voices be taken from us,” goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. “We stand for human rights. That’s what we wanted to show. We may have been silenced by FIFA regarding the captain’s armbands, but we always stand for our values.”
The image made headlines and received criticism from other teams. Belgium’s Eden Hazard, in particular, suggested Germany might “have done better not to do it (the protest) and to win instead. “
Germany did not repeat the action during its second game against Spain with midfielder Ilkay Gundogan saying on Monday that he believes “the politics are finished.”
“Now it’s just about football — enjoying and celebrating — so that’s the most important thing, ” he said.
With files from The Associated Press