DOHA, Qatar (AP) – Germany’s players covered their mouths for the team photo before the opening of the World Cup match on Wednesday to protest FIFA after the governing body cracked down on the “One Love” armband.
The German team lined up in the traditional formation before the match against Japan, with all 11 players covering their mouths with their right hands in a coordinated gesture.
“It was a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is spinning on us,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said after the game, which his side lost 2-1.
The gesture was a response to FIFA’s effective nixing of seven European teams’ plans to wear armbands which was seen as a rebuke to host nation Qatar and its human rights record.
Team captains, including Germany captain Manuel Neuer, had planned to wear the armband with the heart-shaped, multicolored logo, a symbol of inclusion and diversity. But the seven confederations withdrew after FIFA made it clear they would face consequences if they did not.
“We may have our bands taken away from us, but we will never let our voices be taken away from us,” Neuer said. “We stand for human rights. That’s what we wanted to show. We may have been silenced by FIFA regarding the captain’s armband, but we always stand by our values.”
Neuer said the idea for the mouth-covering gesture came from the team.
“We really wanted to do something and we thought about what we could do,” Neuer said. “It was clear that we wanted to send a signal.”
FIFA said Germany will not face disciplinary action for the gesture.
Against Japan, Neuer wore an armband with the FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” slogan, although it was difficult to see under his shirt sleeve. Neuer said it was too loose and kept slipping.
The German Football Association released a statement on Twitter during Wednesday’s game stating their position.
“With our captain’s armband, we wanted to send a signal for values that we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect. Being loud with other nations.
“It is not a political message: human rights are non-negotiable. It should be obvious. Unfortunately, it still isn’t. That is why this message is so important to us, said the association. “Denying us the armband is like sniffing us. Our position is firm.”
Qatar has come under scrutiny for its human rights record and laws criminalizing homosexuality.
FIFA issued its warning to confederations on Monday, hours before England and the Netherlands were due to play with their captains wearing the ‘One Love’ armbands. The governing body said the players will be shown an immediate yellow card and could face further consequences.
German FA president Bernd Neuendorf called the warning “another low blow” from FIFA.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who is also responsible for sports, wore a “One Love” bracelet in the stands at the Germany game, where she sat next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Phases posted a picture of himself on Twitter wearing it with the hashtag #OneLove.
News agency DPA reported that Faeser was wearing the bracelet under a pink blazer which she took off during the first half.
Earlier, Faeser criticized Qatar for forcing a German fan to remove a rainbow colored armband and headband in another match.
– This is not in line with my understanding of the security guarantees I was given by (Qatar’s) interior minister, Faeser said. “Safety must apply to all people. I am very disappointed by this.”
The rainbow flag is a widely used symbol of tolerance with regard to sexual diversity.
Faeser said “such symbols should be displayed openly.”
At a later match, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wore the “One Love” armband when she met Infantino at her country’s match against Canada. She too posted a picture of himself on Twitter wearing the band.
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