Football Association of Wales chief Noel Mooney has hit out at FIFA's "cheap" and "low" decision to impose playing sanctions on Gareth Bale and other captains if they chose to wear the 'OneLove' arm bands on the pitch.
Wales, England and five other nations playing at the World Cup had pledged to wear the rainbow-emblazoned arm bands at the tournament as a symbol of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, with Qatar treating homosexuality as illegal.
However, before their first games, FIFA threatened to dish out cards to captains who wore the arm bands on the pitch, which prompted the seven nations to release a joint statement to announce they would no longer be wearing them.
READ MORE: Laura McAllister describes moment she had rainbow bucket hat removed by World Cup security
Mooney, the FAW chief executive, did not hold back when asked his view on the situation.
"For months and months we knew we were going to wear the OneLove arm band, they [FIFA] certainly did," Mooney told ITV. "To lay that one on us is pretty cheap and pretty low, to be frank, and we are really disappointed with that attitude. We have been absolutely furious about this. We have given FIFA everything we have got in terms of how furious we are about this decision to do this. We think it was a terrible decision."
Some believe the players should have worn the arm bands regardless of any playing sanctions. Indeed, ITV pundit Roy Keane said there was "no protest without a risk" and the captains should have "worn the arm band and taken the consequences". You can read more about what he said here .
In response to that school of thought, Mooney said: "Absolutely, I understand why everybody would be upset about the OneLove arm band not being there. But there was no way we could ask Gareth Bale to take a yellow or red card at his first World Cup. How could you do that?
"Anyone who thinks the players just take a card like that, they don't understand the psyche of a professional athlete who is going out to play the biggest moment of their lives.
"We didn't back down at all. We looked at the sporting sanctions. We said we would accept fines, we would accept whatever, but when it turned at the very last moment to specific sporting sanctions, that would have stopped our players taking the field of play, potentially, and it was done so late."
The PR surrounding LGBTQ+ inclusivity at the tournament in Qatar has been abysmal. For Wales fans, in particular, who tried to get into the game against the USA on Monday wearing their rainbow-coloured bucket hats and shoelaces, they were made to take off any item of clothing which had a nod to anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and put it in a lost property box.
Mooney was equally furious about that. "I was in the stadium and I started getting WhatsApp messages and texts saying people were getting their bucket hats taken off them. I heard shoelaces were being taken off people, wristbands, you couldn't make it up," he said.
"We were told this was going to be a really inclusive, welcoming and warm World Cup. That's not what I've seen, I've got to say. To have our fans have their bucket hats taken off them is just appalling. We are seeking clarifications on that. We have asked FIFA to come back to us today [Wednesday] with some clarification for the Iran game for our fans to wear whatever they wish.
"We've got to, as the FAW, as the governing body, along with our government, speak about these things. The players' voices were taken away with the arm band and for that we are deeply disappointed."
Danish football federation chief executive Jakob Jensen says the group of nations who sought to wear the OneLove armband at the World Cup, which includes England and Wales, are co-ordinating their discussions on legal next steps after FIFA forced them to drop their plans.
Jensen says the group of seven European associations are looking at which legal avenues are open to them after it became clear they faced sporting sanctions from FIFA if the rainbow-themed bands were worn.
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