Belgium's Vertonghen 'afraid' to talk about rights after armband ban

Belgium's Jan Vertonghen says he is "afraid" to talk about human rights after European nations decided not to wear a rainbow-themed captain's armband at the World Cup.

Seven nations, including England and Germany, abandoned plans to wear the armbands in Qatar because of the threat of FIFA disciplinary action, including bookings.

They had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in the host nation, where homosexuality is illegal.

German football association president Bernd Neuendorf called FIFA's stance "an unprecedented event in World Cup history" and "a show of force".

Vertonghen, speaking on the eve of Belgium's opening game against Canada, said he did not feel comfortable.

"I'm afraid if I say something about this I might not be able to play tomorrow," the defender said on Tuesday.

"It's an experience I've never felt in football before. I feel controlled. I'm afraid to even say something about this.

"We're just saying normal things about racism and discrimination and if you can't even say things about it, that says it all.

"I want to appear on the pitch tomorrow, so I'll leave it at that."

FIFA has also banned Belgium from wearing a rainbow-tinged second kit with the word "Love" on the collar.

Football's world governing body ruled that the shirt had a commercial link to the Belgian music festival Tomorrowland.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said he was keen to focus on the football.

"We've been very proactive (about social issues) in the last two years," said the Spaniard.

"Yesterday was very clear, a statement was made by the federation and now we are just focused on football. The work and talk around the World Cup has been done."

Belgium, who finished third at the 2018 tournament in Russia, will also face Morocco and Croatia in Group F.

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