Denmark’s Toned-Down World Cup Jerseys Are Designed to Protest Host Country Qatar

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The FIFA World Cup, in addition to being the world’s premiere soccer tournament, is also an inherently political event: international tensions, a murky bid system, an organization mired in corruption scandals, and the simple costs and constraints of putting the whole thing on ensure that there’s always more to talk about than soccer. That’s been especially true of the 2022 edition, set to kick off in Qatar at the end of November.

For years now, Qatar’s status as host nation has been controversial: first for the manner in which it won the right to host back in 2010, and then more prominently for reported human rights violations related to the deaths of a reported 6,500 migrant workers, primarily hailing from south Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, carrying out building work for the tournament. (As of 2021, governing body FIFA had not found evidence to warrant revoking the country as host.) On Wednesday, Denmark’s national team previewed the relatively subdued jersey designs they’ll wear this year—strikingly designed in remembrance of those workers, and in their ongoing objection to Qatar’s role as host.

Danish sportswear brand Hummel, longtime supplier of their national team’s kits, revealed the three monochromatic designs, in red, white, and black, via Instagram. The typical design elements of a pro-soccer jersey—such as logos, stripes, or the Danes’ signature chevron pattern—have been sublimated to be barely visible.

“We don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives,” the brand wrote 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 isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation.” The black jersey, another caption read, represents “the colour of mourning.”

Though FIFA’s World Cup rules prohibit outright political statements on team uniforms, it’s a pointed gesture—and in a jersey-release period best characterized as “blah,” these quiet shirts stand out even more. Further, the kit makes good on a pledge the Danish soccer federation made nearly a year ago, when it said players would wear “critical messages and markings” on their jerseys to underline its already-critical stance on Qatar’s hosting. In June 2021, Denmark’s culture minister Joy Mogensen called the Qatar pick “wrong,” noting that the country and its fellow Nordic nations agreed that “closeness and corruption is something we must get rid of in top sports.”