No, first-class clubs such as Club Brugge and Anderlecht will not be on the field in the coming weeks because the World Cup will take place in Qatar. But in the second division, the so-called ‘Challenger Pro League’, there is football. And there will be the captain’s armband in rainbow colors that there is so much to do at that World Cup in Qatar. The Pro League, the association of Belgian professional clubs, asks the clubs to wear that band. As a statement. “It is a good time to do that and highlight our anti-discrimination policy,” said Lorin Parys, CEO of the Pro League.
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The intention was that a number of countries would play with that captain’s armband at the World Cup in Qatar, as a statement for more inclusiveness and equal rights for the LGBTQI + community. But the world football association FIFA whistled them back: captains who wear it receive a yellow card. All countries, including Belgium, folded: the band will not be seen.
“I’m not going to comment on the guilty in that case: I choose to focus on what we can do ourselves,” says Parys. “Well, our position is very clear.”
According to Parys, the football clubs in our country are working on various projects against inequality, against homophobia and transphobia, against racism. “There is a whole policy behind that that we consistently propagate. It is a good time to emphasize that again.”
According to FIFA, the One Love captain’s armband is a political statement, the ban is based on it. “I don’t think that’s political at all,” says Parys. “For the Pro League, the essence of football is that everyone should be able to play it, whether you are a refugee or a doctor, whatever skin color you have or whatever your sexual orientation is. All social barriers disappear on a football field. If there are barriers in society that prevent some people from playing football, then it is one no brainer that you deliver a message there? We are the biggest sport in the country, it is our responsibility to make our voices heard. You don’t play football in a vacuum.”
The rainbow band will not be mandatory for clubs playing next weekend: it is a call from the Pro League, not a must. “It is nice to see that, for example, during the Lierse-Beveren match, corner flags were already visible in the rainbow colours,” says Parys.
The CEO of the Pro League will not go to the World Cup himself. “That’s what my husband (Bart Van Bever, ed.) already made it very clear in interviews: I am not going on principle.”
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