Why Do Football Players Wear Black Armbands

Why Do Football Players Wear Black Armbands?

Last updated on March 7th, 2022

You may have seen some football matches where the players are wearing black armbands.

What is the significance of a black armband and why are they wearing it?

Why do football players wear black armbands?

Football players wear a black armband as a mark of respect. They do this to pay tribute to certain events that have happened, such as a disaster or the death of someone significant. Players will also have a minute of silence before the match to pay their final respects.

The wearing of a black armband actually came from Western culture. This armband signifies that the wearer is either in mourning or wishes to pay respect to someone who has passed away.

This tradition is now being adopted in football!

Here are some scenarios where a black armband may be worn in football:

1) A sign of respect for someone significant who has passed away

There are many people who can be significant to the club. This could include former players, managers, or even owners of the club.

These people are usually someone who has played a crucial part in the development of the club.

Here are some examples of teams showing respect for certain people.

#1 Diego Maradona (Barcelona)

Barcelona players were seen paying tribute to Diego Maradona, who played for the club between 1982-1984.

The main focus was on Lionel Messi, who had a special relationship with Maradona.

#2 Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (Leicester City)

Leicester City’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, tragically passed away in a helicopter crash in 2018. He was beloved by everyone at the club, particularly for helping win their first ever Premier League title.

In the next match against Cardiff City, the players were seen wearing black armbands to commemorate their late owner.

Demarai Gray scored the only goal in this match, and took off his shirt while celebrating to reveal an undershirt ‘For Khun Vichai’. Even though the tribute was heartwarming, Gray was still booked for taking off his shirt!

#3 Kobe Bryant (AC Milan)

The person who passed does not necessarily need to be a football player or manager. In fact, some of them can be fans of the club as well.

Kobe Bryant was a huge fan of AC Milan, as he stayed in Italy when he was 6 years old.

When he tragically passed away in May 2020, AC Milan wanted to hold a tribute for him. They intended to wear black armbands in their Coppa Italia game against Torino.

Initially, AC Milan did not receive approval by Lega Calcio. However, they eventually managed to obtain the approval required.

This led to a very touching tribute to Kobe at the start of the match.

This tradition has been around for a really long time. When Princess Diana passed away in 1997, the Republic of Ireland football team wore black armbands as a mark of respect.

2) Paying respect to victims of tragedies

There may be certain tragedies that happen around the world. Football teams will show solidarity in these trying times, and pay their respects to the people involved in these tragedies.

Such tragedies can be football or non-football related. Here are some examples:

#1 Chapecoense Plane Crash

On 28 November 2016, a plane carrying the Chapecoense football squad crashed near Medellín, Colombia. Of the 77 people on board the plane, only 6 of them survived.

Many Premier League teams wore black armbands to pay respect to those who were killed in the plane crash.

It was particularly heartbreaking for the Brazilians in the Premier League.

Gabriel Paulista (Arsenal) was friends with some of the victims, so it was particularly emotional for him. Willian and David Luiz (Chelsea) also held a touching tribute to the victims in a match against Manchester City.

#2 Paris Attacks

On 13 November 2015, there were multiple attacks by gunmen across Paris. This led to 130 people being killed, and hundreds more being injured.

To pay respects to the victims of this brutal attack, the Bundesliga announced that players in both Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 would wear black armbands.

Countries taking part in all UEFA competitions were also required to wear black armbands as well.

You may wonder how many English teams may enter the Champions League, and in fact a maximum of 5 of them can enter!

Interestingly, F1 drivers also wore black armbands to pay tribute to the victims as well.

#3 Hillsborough

The Hillsborough disaster was considered to be the worst sporting disaster in British history, with 96 deaths and 766 injuries.

The anniversary of this disaster is usually marked by all Premier League teams. They will wear the black armband with a minute of silence to pay tribute to the victims of the disaster.

#4 Munich

The Munich Air Disaster (1958) was another tragic event in football history, where 23 out of the 44 passengers died. The team on board the plane was Manchester United.

Manchester United usually holds a memorial service on the anniversary of this tragic event. Players will wear the black armband to mark this occasion as well.

3) Showing support for the Black Lives Matter Campaign

In May 2020, the killing of George Floyd sparked protests around the world. In a show of solidarity, some teams wore a black armband to support the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.

Bayern Munich was one of the teams that wore these armbands when they played against Bayer Leverkusen.

For other teams, it was only the team captains that wore these armbands.

In Major League Soccer (MLS), the captains of 20 teams wore black armbands with different designs to support the movement. These armbands were worn during the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.

Players do not need to be the captain to wear a black armband

You may think that you need to be the team captain to wear the armband. However, that is not the case for the black armband!

The captain’s armband is usually very distinct and may have the word ‘Captain’ on it. For the black armbands, it can be worn by anyone on the team.

Usually, the captain will wear his armband on his left arm. The black armband will be on his opposite arm (right). However, there is no rule to govern how the armband should be worn!

It is possible for any player to be the captain of the team, including defenders and goalkeepers.

The whole team will usually wear the armband together as they show solidarity in the face of a tragedy.

If the person or tragedy is significant enough, both teams may wear the black armband!

There is no rule governing the wearing of black armbands

There is no official rule in football that covers when can players wear black armbands. However, it is a rather common occurrence in football matches.

Interestingly, Olinda Ferny Creek Football Netball Club wanted to standardise the protocols for wearing black armbands. Some of their concerns were valid, such as:

  1. If the players wear the armband too many times, it will dilute the significance of the armband
  2. There is no protocol to determine who is deserving of the black armband tribute
  3. Fans may be confused why the players are wearing black armbands, which defeats the purpose of the armband

It may be good to have a standardised protocol for these armbands. This may make the tributes even more meaningful.


Black armbands were a part of Western culture to show respect for someone important or for a horrible tragedy. Football has adopted this tradition and continued using the black armband as a way to pay tribute to someone’s death.

This is not compulsory, but any member of the team is able to wear it.

The wearing of the black armband is rather unique to football, and has not been carried out in other sports.

If you’re looking to buy the latest football merchandise from your favourite club, you can check out the latest deals at Kitbag.

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