Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has condemned world soccer governing body FIFA after it threatened to punish teams competing at the World Cup if they showed support for LGBTQ rights.
Coveney accused FIFA of acting to "limit freedom of expression through sport" after the organization warned seven European football associations that their team captain would be shown a yellow card if they wore an armband supporting LGBTQ rights.
The seven European football associations, including the English and Welsh FA, reversed their decision to wear OneLove armbands in response to the FIFA warnings.
The armband contained the Pride colors and was set to be a protest against Qatar's criminalization of same-sex relations.
Coveney said the incident was "very regrettable", adding that it cast FIFA in a "pretty poor light".
He was reluctant to blame the seven captains who were due to wear the OneLove armband, stating that they are sports people, "not politicians".
"I think it is absolutely extraordinary that Fifa has effectively chosen to lean on national football associations in different countries to prevent players wearing an armband to support LGBT+ rights," Coveney said on Tuesday.
"That is a political intervention by Fifa to actually limit freedom of expression through sport, which is worthy of significant mention and criticism."
Coveney said he believed players competing at the World Cup are entitled to wear a rainbow-colored armband in support of LGBTQ rights in Qatar or in support of "any other rights that are consistent with international law".
Coveney was speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday night, responding to questions about Irish supporters traveling to the World Cup in Qatar. He said Ireland has a consular team in Doha that is "second to none" and "waiting to support people if they need support".
FIFA's decision to nix the OneLove protest has drawn criticism from all seven European countries planning to wear the armband.
Germany's players covered their mouths during their team photo ahead of their game against Japan on Wednesday in response to FIFA's decision to effectively prevent teams from wearing the OneLove armband.
German coach Hansi Flick said after the game that the gesture was a sign from the team that "FIFA is muzzling us".
"It’s not a political message: human rights are non-negotiable. That should be obvious. Unfortunately it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us," German's soccer federation said on Twitter.