BBC pundits Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer have been highly critical after England opted against wearing a OneLove armband in their World Cup opener against Iran.
The England squad have had to deal with the unwanted distraction of whether or not captain Harry Kane will wear the armband on Monday afternoon.
It was then announced in a joint statement that England and six other nations would not wear a OneLove armband over fear of sporting sanctions from FIFA.
This was instantly the biggest talking point as BBC began their coverage of the match.
Asked if he thinks talk over wearing the armband and taking a knee is a distraction for the England squad, Shearer said: “I don’t think it’s fair on the players having to deal with this the morning of a game.
“They have done incredible work off the pitch, a lot of the England players and the England manager, including during the (Covid-19) pandemic.
“The FA knew it was in the rulebook that they weren’t allowed to wear the armbands.
“It is not fair on the players having to deal with this on the day of a game when it could be one of the biggest games they will ever play, on the morning of a World Cup game, they are about to kick off, ready to play football.
“All the player should be thinking about now is how they are going to win this game.”
Former England defender Ferdinand believes it is near-impossible for England players to “win” when it comes to these sort of issues.
“You can’t win as a footballer,” he said. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
“You speak out and people say, ‘You’re not a politician, be quiet, get back in your box’. If you speak out (people ask), ‘You think you’re a politician now?’.
“It is very difficult and that’s why I think the federations have to be stronger.
“The organisations have to come at this together as a unified approach and say, ‘Listen, this is where we stand, this is where we go now’.”
Micah Richards got involved, adding: “All you can do is highlight it and show you have got the awareness. Everyone is going to have a different opinion to everything. Even having discussions now is raising awareness.”
Shearer insists it would have been a “huge statement” to see Kane lead the team out with the OneLove armband on.
He said: “It would have made a huge statement.
“Could you imagine? Harry Kane walking out with that armband on and then what would FIFA do?”
Brutally, Ferdinand said football associations around the world have “folded like a pack of cards” when challenged by FIFA.
“They’ve had a bump in the road and they have all folded like a pack of cards,” he added.
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