World Cup 2022: Virgil van Dijk hits back at criticism over OneLove armband row

Virgil van Dijk playing for the Netherlands at the World Cup
The Netherlands beat Senegal 2-0 in their World Cup opener on Monday
Host nation: Qatar Dates: 20 November-18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listingsFull coverage details

Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk has hit back at criticism accusing European teams at the World Cup of having no “backbone” after they decided against wearing the OneLove armband.

The captains of seven countries, including England and Wales, planned to wear the armband during matches to promote diversity and inclusion.

But the plans were dropped because of Fifa’s threat of players being booked.

The captains are instead wearing Fifa-approved ‘No Discrimination’ armbands.

“I play in a position where a yellow card is not useful. I became a football player and I want to play these kind of tournaments,” Van Dijk told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

Speaking after the Netherlands’ 2-0 win over Senegal on Monday, the Liverpool centre-back said: “There are people who say we don’t have a backbone, but that’s not how it works.

“We just want to play football. I would have loved to play with that band, but not at the expense of a yellow card.”

The Netherlands began the OneLove campaign before Euro 2020 to promote diversity and inclusion, and as a message against discrimination.

Same-sex relationships and the promotion of same-sex relationships are criminalised in Qatar.

In a statement on Monday, the seven European nations – also including Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland – said they were willing to pay fines for their captains wearing the armband but could not put their players at risk of being booked.

Speaking after the 6-2 opening win over Iran, England skipper Harry Kane said he was “disappointed” about not being able to wear the armband, while team-mate Jack Grealish said the decision was “a bit stupid”.

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