The challenges around supporting this World Cup as a football tournament just keep on mounting.

For many of us, the World Cup has been a punctuation point in our lives. If you are English 1966 still has an iconic hold over your imagination of what it means to be of that country.

Depending on your age it will be Pele, Gerd Muller, Johann Cruyff, Mario Kempes, Paolo Rossi, or Diego Maradona that provides probably your first sporting memory.

In Ireland, we attribute the growth of modern Ireland to the highs of Italia 90.

And so on down and through the years.

But every time you think of Qatar as a scandal in terms of governance, human rights and inclusion, but still a football tournament, and one which might do some good by shining a light on how the world might see different cultural practices, it jumps up with another sucker punch.

Over the last year, much has been made of England and Harry Kane in particular, but also Wales, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland making a statement by wearing a One Love Captains armband to support the LGBTQ+ community.

This morning, only hours before the first time this could have been done, we hear that each of the associations has backed down.

How can this possibly be seen by members of that community? The threat they face in Qatar include illegality, imprisonment, beatings, and possible death.

It is similarly illegal to be gay in eight of the 32 competing nations.

The meaning of inclusion

The very meaning of inclusion is that you can feel safe and supported. That is what the football superpowers had promised and that must have meant so much, even if only as a gesture.

Now that support has crumbled in the face of the threat of a yellow card for the players concerned. Really, the abandonment of an important statement of support for millions of people around the world because of the threat of a yellow card for one.

A squad player with little likelihood of seeing game time could have been named as Captain, worn the armband, and played five minutes; every member of the panel could have worn an armband. This could have been an “I’m Spartacus” moment.

But FIFA has not been called on this.

The associations have folded and issued a statement which says:

“Fifa has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in Fifa World Cup games.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.

“We are very frustrated by the Fifa decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to Fifa in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”

There is still hope in the hours before England kick off against Iran that something can be done that does not leave the LGBTQ+ population abandoned.

They could wear armbands in the warm-up and the standing for the national anthems. They could wear t-shirts with a message of support written using a sharpie.

They can take the fine, make a statement that will be seen around the world, and confirm that sport, with all its power and influence can be a genuine force for good.

The clock is ticking.