DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Germany players cover their mouths for a team photo ahead of the opening World Cup Wednesday’s match in protest against FIFA following the banning of the “One Love” shirt on the sleeve.
The German team lined up in a 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 silencing us,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said after the match, which his side lost 2-1.
The gesture was in response to FIFA scrapping plans for seven European teams to wear armbands. which were seen as rebuking the host country of Qatar and its human rights record.
Team captains, including Germany captain Manuel Neuer, planned to wear the armband with a multicolored heart-shaped logo, a symbol of inclusion and diversity. But the seven federations backed down 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 them take our voices away from us,” Neuer said. “We stand for human rights. That’s what we wanted to show. FIFA may have silenced us about captain’s armbands, 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 were thinking about what we could do,” Neuer said. “It was clear that we wanted to send a signal.
FIFA said Germany would not face disciplinary action for the gesture.
Against Japan, Neuer wore a FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” slogan on his sleeve, although it was difficult to see under his shirt sleeve. Neuer said he was too loose and that he was still sliding.
The German Football Association released a statement on Twitter during Wednesday’s match stating its stance.
“With our captain’s armband, we wanted to send a signal to the values we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect. To be loud together with other nations.
“This is not a political message: human rights are non-negotiable. That should be obvious. Unfortunately, it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us,” the federation said. “Refusing us a wristband is like giving us a muzzle. Our position stands.”
Qatar is under scrutiny for its human rights record and laws criminalizing homosexuality.
FIFA issued the warning to federations on Monday, hours before England and the Netherlands decided to play with their captains wearing “One Love” sleeves. The governing body said the players will be shown an immediate yellow card and may face further consequences.
German football federation president Bernd Neuendorf described the warning from FIFA as “another low blow”.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who is also responsible for sports, wore a “One Love” tape in the stands at the match in Germany, where she sat next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Faeser she posted her photo on Twitter wearing it with the hashtag #OneLove.
The DPA news agency reported that Faeser was wearing a sleeve tape under her pink jacket, which she removed during the first half.
Earlier, Faeser criticized Qatar for forcing a German fan to remove his rainbow armband and headband in another game.
“This is inconsistent with my understanding of the security assurances given to me by the (Qatar) interior minister,” Faeser said. “Safety must apply to all people. I’m very disappointed about that.”
The rainbow flag is widely used as a symbol of tolerance regarding sexual diversity.
Faeser said that “such symbols should be opened.”
At a later match, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wore a “One Love” armband when she met Infantino at her country’s match against Canada. She too she posted her photo on Twitter with the band.
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