Denmark’s toned-down World Cup jerseys are designed to protest against host country Qatar

As well as being the world’s premier football tournament, the FIFA World Cup is also an inherently political event: international tensions, a murky bidding system, an organization mired in corruption scandals and the simple costs and constraints of putting it all on ensure there’s always more to talk about than football. This has been particularly the case for the 2022 edition, which starts in Qatar at the end of November.

For years, Qatar’s status as a host nation has been controversial: first for the way it won the right to host back in 2010, and then more prominently for reported human rights abuses related to Death of 6,500 migrant workers, who primarily come from South Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, are doing construction work for the tournament. (As of 2021, governing body FIFA had found no evidence to warrant recalling the country as host.) On Wednesday, Denmark’s national team previewed the relatively subdued jersey designs they will wear this year — strikingly designed to commemorate those workers, and in their ongoing objection to Qatar’s role as host.

Danish sportswear brand Hummel, long-standing supplier of their national team uniforms, revealed the three monochromatic designs, in red, white and black, via Instagram. The typical design elements in a pro football shirt – such as logos, stripes or the Danes’ characteristic chevron pattern – have been sublimated to be barely visible.

“We don’t want to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of lives,” wrote the brand on Instagram, adding that the design was also inspired by Denmark’s winning Euro 92 uniforms. “We support the Danish national team all the way, but that is not the same as supporting Qatar as the host nation.” The black shirt, read another captionrepresents “the color of sorrow.”

Although FIFA’s World Cup rules prohibit direct political statements on team kits, it is a pointed gesture – and in a jersey release period best characterized as “blah”, these quiet shirts stand out even more. In addition, the set fulfills a promise that the Danish Football Association made almost a year ago when it said players would carry “critical messages and markings” on their shirts to underline its already critical stance on Qatar’s hosting. In June 2021Denmark’s Culture Minister Joy Mogensen called the Qatar election “wrong”, noting that the country and its Nordic countries agreed that “cronyism and corruption is something we have to get rid of in top sport.”

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