US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday called FIFA’s ban on an armband promoting LGBTQ rights at the World Cup in Qatar “concerning".
Speaking in Doha hours after watching the United States held to a 1-1 draw by Wales, Blinken told a press conference that no team should be forced to choose between “supporting his values" and playing.
England, Germany and five other European teams abandoned plans to wear rainbow-themed “Onelove" armbands at the World Cup because of the threat of FIFA disciplinary action.
The armbands had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in World Cup host Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal. FIFA’s move has been criticised in Europe.
Asked about the ban following talks with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Blinken said: “It is always concerning when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression, especially when the expression is diversity.
“No one on the football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting his values and playing," he added.
Blinken, a football supporter, arrived in Doha on Monday for a 24-hour visit that included watching the United States give up a one goal lead in their opening World Cup game.
The Qatari minister said his country, which has spent more than $200 billion on infrastructure and other preparations for the World Cup, had been the victim of “pre-conceived ideas" about conditions in the emirate.
Read all the Latest Sports News here