Germany vs.  Japan: German players cover their mouths in protest at FIFA’s crackdown on freedom of expression in ‘OneLove’ bracelet range

Germany vs. Japan: German players cover their mouths in protest at FIFA’s crackdown on freedom of expression in ‘OneLove’ bracelet range

Germany vs.  Japan: German players cover their mouths in protest at FIFA’s crackdown on freedom of expression in ‘OneLove’ bracelet range


It was a moment so brief that thousands of fans inside the Khalifa International Stadium on Wednesday could have easily missed it.

But a moment, the time it took for photographers to gather in front of Germany’s World Cup squad to snap a picture, was all it took for the four-time winners to send a message to football’s world governing body.

Germany’s starting 11 all posed with their right hands in front of their mouths, and within minutes the image circulated widely on social media.

And as Germany kicked off their World Cup campaign against Japan in Group E, the team’s social media feed confirmed the gesture was designed as a protest against FIFA’s decision to ban the ‘OneLove’ armband that many European captains had hoped to wear in Qatar.

It was a match that produced another World Cup shock as Japan came from behind to win 2-1.

Before the tournament, captains from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had planned to wear the armbands during the World Cup – which feature a striped heart in different colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities – before FIFA made it was clear on Monday that players would receive a yellow card.

On Wednesday, the German Football Association (DFB) released a series of tweets shortly after the match started indicating that FIFA had prevented them from using their voices to speak out at the World Cup on issues they felt passionate about, hence the protest.

“We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for the values ​​we have in the German national team: diversity and mutual respect,” the DFB said. “Along with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.

“It was not about making a political statement – ​​human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t. That is why this message is so important to us.

“To deny us the wristband is the same as denying us a vote,” the DFB added. – We stand by our position.

CNN has contacted FIFA for comment.

Before countries announced their captains would not wear the armband in Qatar, FIFA had promoted its own “No Discrimination” campaign, saying all 32 captains would have the opportunity to wear an armband linked to the campaign.

Nancy Faeser is seen in the stands during Germany's match against Japan.

Germany fan Nick Boettcher told CNN that it was “sad” that FIFA had decided to deny players the opportunity to wear the armband.

“FIFA makes a lot of questionable decisions, so it’s good that people speak up,” Boettcher said. – I am very proud that they did it. People will certainly talk about this, and attention will grow. The pressure on FIFA and Qatar is definitely increasing.”

England fan Samir Cordell told CNN inside the stadium that he was “over the moon” with the protest.

“Germany and the German fans should be proud,” he said. “I’m an England fan and I didn’t like to see England not wearing the armband. I would love to see Harry Kane use it and get the order. I think it’s great, I think it’s fantastic. Hats off to them.”

A handful of the starting 11 for Germany, including Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and İlkay Gündoğan, wore rainbow flags on their boots.

Germany’s protest comes after both Kane and Wales’ Gareth Bale took to the field on Monday in their respective matches without the ‘OneLove’ rainbow armband. Germany captain Manuel Neuer also did not wear the armband on Wednesday.

While Neuer chose not to wear the armband, Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser was seen wearing it on her arm while attending her team’s match against Japan.

Nancy Faeser is seen in the stands during Germany's match against Japan.

In a tweet, Faeser posted a photo of herself wearing the bracelet while in the stands, in what appeared to be a show of solidarity with the national team.

Before the match, Faeser had criticized FIFA and slammed the threat of sanctions for wearing the armband.

“This is not good, how federations are put under pressure,” she said during a visit to a German FA event, according to Reuters.

“In today’s time, it is incomprehensible that FIFA does not want people to openly stand for tolerance and against discrimination. It is not appropriate for our time, and it is not appropriate for people.”

In the build-up to the World Cup, Qatar – where sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison – has been criticized for its stance on LGBTQ rights.

A report by Human Rights Watch, published last month, documented cases as recently as September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to “mistreatment in custody.”

However, the country has insisted that “everyone is welcome” to the tournament, adding in a statement to CNN this month that “our track record has shown that we have warmly welcomed all people regardless of background”.

And since the start of the tournament, some who have attended World Cup matches in Qatar have said they have experienced difficulties trying to enter stadiums wearing clothes in support of LGBTQ rights.

At Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Monday, ahead of the US men’s national team’s (USMNT) match with Wales, US soccer journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister both said they had been told to remove rainbow colored clothing by security personnel.

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