Wales will not protest against Fifa’s ban on the One Love armband ahead of tomorrow’s World Cup meeting with Iran, with head coach Rob Page urging his players to focus on the football - and suggesting Germany might “in hindsight have the same message” after their surprise defeat to Japan.
Wales and Germany were, along with England, among seven European nations planning to wear the rainbow-coloured armband during the tournament as a show of support for the LGBTQ+ community in a country where homosexuality remains illegal.
However, all seven backed down after being threatened by Fifa with sporting sanctions, possibly including a yellow card for any player wearing the band.
Ahead of their shock 2-1 loss against Japan on Wednesday, Germany’s players covered their mouths during a team photo in a reference to being silenced by the game’s governing body, but asked about the possibility of a similar gesture from Wales, Page said: “No, we have campaigns going on that we are fully supportive of as an association and as a Welsh government.
“I want my players to focus fully on playing games of football and winning games. I am sure Germany now, in hindsight, will probably have the same message.”
Wales captain Gareth Bale, who will tomorrow become the country’s most capped men’s player of all-time, had been due to wear the armband during the opener against the USA earlier this week before the countries’ collective decision to bow to Fifa pressure.
Bale was booked inside the first-half of the 1-1 draw and while expressing frustrations at Fifa’s stance agreed the time had come for Wales to focus on the football.
“We weren’t too happy about not being able to wear it with the sanctions that could have been put in place,” Bale said.
“I know people have said we should have just worn it but I would’ve been sent off after about 25 minutes. Of course we support it but we’re here to play football at the same time.
“Just by not wearing the armband doesn’t mean we don’t support it. We’re all for equality and we’re trying to do the right thing, create that awareness.
“In terms of doing something else, I guess when teams try to do something else and the result doesn’t go the right way they get criticised for not concentrating on the football so for us, now that the tournament’s started we really need to concentrate on the football ourselves.
“Outside of the game, if there’s anything we can do to raise awareness or support we’ll definitely do that.”
Bale hopes there will be plenty of young fans watching back in Wales, doing his bit to persuade teachers back home that there was an educational aspect to the match as an historic occasion.
“Being a 10am kick-off in Wales, if I was one of the teachers I would let them all watch the game,” the Wales captain said.
“I hope they do. I think like I’ve said before it’s a historical moment. Some of the schools and parents of kids that I know all want to watch the game, but don’t want to take them off school. So I think a lot of schools will put the game on for them to cheer us on and get behind us.
“It’ll maybe be a bit of a history lesson. So it’ll be a great occasion and they can enjoy watching the game.