England and Wales open their World Cup campaigns today in Qatar amid ongoing uncertainty about potential FIFA punishments for their activism.
Captain Harry Kane is due to wear a One Love multicoloured armband when England face Iran at Khalifa International Stadium at 1pm UK time.
Then at 7pm, at Al Rayyan Stadium, Gareth Bale is due to wear the same armband promoting inclusivity when he leads Wales out against the USA.
The armbands do not directly reference Qatar‘s anti-LGBT laws.
But FIFA has still declined to respond to questions publicly for more than two months about whether they would be permitted or considered unsanctioned messaging on equipment.
There is the potential the captains wearing the armbands could be booked and FA chief executive Mark Bullingham told Sky News last month that England were braced for a possible fine.
While FIFA remained silent on the request from England and Wales – and some other European nations, it suddenly announced on Saturday that teams could wear armbands of its choosing at the World Cup.
The FIFA messaging is vague – such as #FootballUnitesTheWorld – for the first round of matches. The slogan for the quarterfinals – #NoDiscrimination – comes despite the tournament host nation discriminating against gay people.
FIFA does already permit England’s other planned activism, with players deciding to take the knee to highlight racial injustice.
England manager Gareth Southgate said: “Of course we understand in the Premier League that the clubs have decided to only do that for certain games, big occasions.
“We feel this is the biggest and we think it’s a strong statement that will go around the world for young people, in particular, to see that inclusivity is very important.”
Both England and Wales have an elevated status in the world game, holding two of the eight votes deciding the laws of football.
It allows them to have a say on what is allowed on equipment, but the International Football Association Board is dominated by FIFA’s four votes along with Scotland and Northern Ireland having a seat each.
‘Dare to dream’
On the pitch, Southgate is trying to end a six-match winless run that includes England being relegated in the Nations League.
He is trying to revive the form that took England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and final of the European Championship last year.
Wales are back at a World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Nearly 2,400 fans applied for tickets for the Iran game via the England Supporters’ Travel Club, while Wales expect more than 2,500 fans to be there.
Many more are set to travel from nearby countries such as UAE and Saudi Arabia.
England kick off at the 40,000 capacity Khalifa International Stadium, with temperatures forecast to be about 26C (79F).
Wales, who are in the same group as England, play the USA six hours later at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales should “dare to dream”, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted a video of himself circling fixtures on a wall chart and posted “do us proud” next to two flag emojis.
US President Joe Biden also got in on the action by calling the American team and urging “you got some of the best players in the world on your team… let’s go shock ’em all”.
The two top teams from each group progress to the next round, with England and Wales meeting on 29 November in their final group game.