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England to select different ‘Unite’ armband for each match at World Cup

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England captain Millie Bright will wear armbands advocating for inclusion, Indigenous People and gender equality in the Lionesses’ respective first three World Cup matches, the FA has confirmed.

Players have the choice of wearing one or more of eight FIFA-sanctioned armbands at this tournament, but not the rainbow OneLove design that sparked the threat of sanctions being issued to countries – including England and Wales – during the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar.

Should the Lionesses progress past the group stage, which begins with Saturday’s opener against Haiti, the player-led decision is for their skipper to switch out her armband to a new cause for each match.

Bright said: “As a group, we felt really strongly about all the causes, and we couldn’t separate one from the other. We feel that they are all important and deserve recognition and our support.

“We have only just come to a decision recently as we wanted to take time to process it all and to make sure we spoke collectively.

“Supporting Indigenous People is massively important to us as a team, both staff and players. We wanted to come to this country and respect the past, the present and the future. We are aware of the past, but we want to move forward collectively and make the world a better place. It is something that we always pride ourselves on.”

Days after their arrival in Australia, England hosted an open training session at the Sunshine Coast Stadium where they were treated to a traditional smoking  ceremony – an Aboriginal custom to welcome, wish good luck and ward off bad spirits – led by the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi people, who also presented the Lionesses with their official tournament squad numbers.

On Wednesday, the team listened to a talk from Karen Menzies, the first Indigenous player for Australia’s Matildas, about the history of and challenges facing the Aboriginal community, as well as reparation efforts.

Bright said:  “We have been honoured with two ceremonies and to be able to have conversations and educate ourselves a little bit more on the Aboriginal people and everything which comes with the culture is amazing. I think we feel really honoured to have had the opportunity.”

Should England progress to the knockout stage, Bright will wear, in order from the last 16, armbands reading ‘Unite for Peace’, ‘Unite for Education for All’, ‘Unite for Zero Hunger’, ‘Unite for Ending Violence Against Women’ and, for a potential first-ever World Cup final in Lionesses’ history, ‘Football is Joy, Peace, Hope, Love and Passion’.

FIFA’s approved armband plan has been criticised for not doing enough to directly advocate for the LGBTQ+ community like the prohibited OneLove band, particularly with LGBTQ+ advocacy non-profit organisation GLAAD reporting a record 91 out players expected to participate in this 32-team World Cup.

England boss Sarina Wiegman, however, has said she feels her squad, which includes several out athletes, are satisfied with the solution, and midfielder Jordan Nobbs on Wednesday insisted she and her team-mates “know our values”.

That sentiment was echoed by Bright, who added: “As a team, we know what we stand for, what we believe in and we also know the changes that we want to make.

“So regardless of an armband, we would like to think our actions and our morals represent everything that we believe in and stand for.”

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