A world Cup of protest and rancor took another incendiary turn with the German players covering their mouths with their hands to suggest they had been gagged by football’s governing body Fifa.
Their message was reinforced by German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who also wore a OneLove armband, which promotes tolerance, diversity and LGBTQ+ rights, as she sat next to the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.
It was an act of calculated defiance against Fifawhich warned seven nations, including England and Wales, that they would face sporting penalties if their captains wore OneLove armbands during matches.
Six players, including Manchester City’s captain Manuel Neuer and Ilkay Gundogan, also wore Adidas boots with rainbow stitching during the team’s shock 2-1 loss to Japan, while the entire squad German team sported rainbow-colored tops on their sleeves during the warm-up.
In a strong statement, the Germans made their anger clear when they told Fifa: “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to defend the values we hold in Fifa. Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect. With other nations, we wanted to make our voice heard.
“It was not about making a political statement – human rights are not negotiable,” he added. “It should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t. This is why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is like denying us a voice. We maintain our position.
Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar and as organizers and Fifa repeated the message that ‘everyone is welcome’ during the World Cup (link)it is unclear whether laws that criminalize acts such as kissing in public have been suspended.
Similar levels of opacity exist when it comes to whether flags and rainbow-colored clothing are allowed, given that the Qataris have removed such clothing from some fans. Authorities have yet to respond to a protest by the Football Association of Wales after fans had rainbow-coloured bucket hats removed by security guards ahead of the game against States -United.
Meanwhile, England are also closely watching the fallout from Germany’s decision, with the Football Association among nations examining whether it will be legally possible to challenge Fifa’s threat to impose sporting sanctions by carrying the OneLove armband.
The FA are deeply unhappy that their captain Harry Kane faced the prospect of instant booking if he put it on against Iran. Fifa did not specify what the sporting sanctions would have meant, but the FA were under the firm impression that Kane would have been booked.
“As a team we all defend him,” England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford said. “We all wanted Harry to wear it, but I think the decision eluded us as a team and as players. If Harry wore it and got a yellow card and missed the next game, it wouldn’t be the case. ideal for us.
It remains to be seen whether the English players will decide to follow their German counterparts in staging another form of protest before facing the United States tomorrow. Gareth Southgate tried to draw a line under the problem after his side’s 6-2 win over Iran, arguing that he and his players should be allowed to focus on their performance on the pitch.
Football’s governing body later confirmed that it would not censor the German FA or its players for their protest.
When asked why they decided to protest, manager Hansi Flick said: “It was a sign, a message that we wanted to send and we wanted to send the message that Fifa is shutting us up.” Striker Kai Havertz also stressed how important it was for German players to promote diversity and tolerance. “Of course it’s important for us to make a statement like this,” he said. “We talked before the game about what we could do and for us it was the right sign to show people that we try to help wherever we can. Of course Fifa don’t make it easy for us .”
Fifa has confirmed that it has opened disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador for homophobic chanting by its fans during their World Cup opener against Qatar.