‘Apparently not everyone is equally free’
“The conclusion is that not everyone is equally free.” Footballer Redouan El Yaakoubi comes to that conclusion after a week in which he lost his captain’s armband at Excelsior because he refused to participate in the KNVB’s OneLove campaign.
“We advocate (in that campaign) that everyone can be there and make choices the way they want, but if I want to make use of those freedoms, then you don’t fit in, then those freedoms no longer apply.”
Willfulness and selective indignation
He accuses the KNVB and the players’ union of arbitrariness, accuses Excelsior of a lack of communication, and the media, in his view, engage in selective indignation.
“We are quite selective in the Netherlands in what we want to do something about,” El Yaakoubi said of the – in his eyes – arbitrariness of the KNVB and players’ union VVCS.
“We do wear a special captain’s armband because of Ukraine, but I hear pretty little about all those other wars going on all over the world. As if those forms of violence are less important. That irritates me.”
That fact combined with religious considerations led El Yaakoubi to decide not to wear the OneLove captain’s armband. “It’s also a form of freedom to make that choice,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean I’m against that grouping (the lhbti community, ed.), but I’m not in favor of that grouping either. I didn’t feel called to be an ambassador or a signboard.”
The explanation that the campaign serves a broader purpose than just supporting lhbti individuals is beyond El Yaakoubi. “OneLove, to my mind, was created for that community. Just type in ‘rainbow’ on google and you’ll see the same thing.”
“I also know there are more captains who would rather not wear the band, but are afraid of the criticism. Or they are not articulate enough to publicly explain why they don’t want it.”
They also knew about my situation. That’s why I blame certain people within Excelsior for putting me in that position at that time.
El Yaakoubi therefore decided to wear a captain’s armband with the word “respect” on it. “That’s how I agreed with the club, that I would carry the message in my own way. So it was clear to them that I wanted nothing to do with that OneLove action.”
So the 27-year-old defender was fitting to take his place behind a OneLove banner with all the other players from Excelsior and opponent Cambuur shortly before kickoff. “That would be super hypocritical of course,” he said.
“That banner had probably been ready for a week and it’s also quite big, so a lot of people at the club will have known about it. And they also knew about my situation. That’s why I blame certain people within Excelsior for putting me in that position at that time.”
So only twenty players stood by the banner, Marouan Azarkan also refused, while El Yaakoubi was just briefly tying his laces at the time. That image caused outrage and was widely discussed in TV programs and newspapers.
“But there was no fuss about Ajax captain Dusan Tadic, who wore the OneLove band under his own captain’s armband,” El Yaakoubi denounced the role of the media.
“Or take Max Verstappen. Who, during a Black Lives Matter action, did exactly the same thing I did. He said he is against discrimination but wants to express that in his own way instead of kneeling.”
“But the people who condemn me now felt at the time that Verstappen had the right to do it that way. Whether that is selective outrage? Unfortunately it is. It’s polarizing, and the media are cooperating with that.”