Germany v Japan: German players cover their mouths to protest FIFA’s crackdown on freedom of expression in ‘OneLove’ armband row


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

But a moment, the time it took for the paparazzi crowded in front of the German World Cup team to snap a photo, was all it took for the four-time winners to send a message to soccer’s world governing body.

All 11 of Germany’s first-choice players were photographed with their right hands in front of their mouths, and within minutes the image had gone viral on social media.

As Germany kicked off their World Cup campaign against Japan in Group E, the team’s social media confirmed that the gesture was 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 delivered another World Cup shock as Japan came from behind to win 2-1.

Ahead of the tournament, captains from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark planned to wear armbands at the World Cup – featuring a heart striped in different colors to represent all legacies, backgrounds, races and genders. Identities Before FIFA makes it clear on Monday, players will receive a yellow card.

On Wednesday, the German Football Association issued a series of tweets shortly after kick-off, suggesting that FIFA had banned them from using their voices to speak at the World Cup about issues they felt passionate about, hence the protest.

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

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

The German Federation added: “Depriving us of the armband is the same as depriving us of the voice.” “We stand by our position.”

CNN has contacted FIFA for comment.

Prior to the countries announcing that their captains would no longer wear the badge in Qatar, FIFA introduced its own “No Discrimination” campaign and said that all 32 captains would have the opportunity to wear a badge associated with the campaign.

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

Germany fan Nick Butcher told CNN it was “sad” that FIFA took this stance to deny players the opportunity to wear the captain’s armband.

“FIFA makes a lot of questionable decisions and so it’s good that people are speaking out,” Butcher said. “I am very proud that they did it. People will definitely be talking about this, and interest will increase. The pressure on FIFA and Qatar is definitely building.”

Samir Cordell, an England fan, told CNN inside that 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 don’t like seeing England not wearing the captaincy. I would have liked to have seen Harry Kane wear it and get the booking. I think he’s great, I think he’s great. Hats off to them.”

A handful of Germany’s first eleven players, including Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and Ilkay Gundogan, have all worn rainbow flags on their boots.

Germany’s protest comes after Kane and Wales’ Gareth Bale took to the pitch on Monday for their matches without the ‘OneLove’ rainbow armband. Nor did Germany captain Manuel Neuer wear the captain’s armband on Wednesday.

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

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

And Weisser published, in a tweet, a picture of her holding the armband while she was in the stands, in what appeared to be an expression of her solidarity with the national team.

Prior to the match, Visser lashed out at FIFA, criticizing the threat of penalties for wearing the captaincy.

“This is not right, how pressure is put on federations,” she said during a visit to a German Football Association event, according to Reuters.

“Nowadays, it is incomprehensible that FIFA does not want people to stand publicly for tolerance and against discrimination. It does not suit our times and it does not suit people.”

In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatar – where sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison – has come under fire for its stance on LGBT rights.

A Human Rights Watch report published last month documented cases as far back as September in which Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested LGBT people and subjected them to “ill-treatment in custody.”

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

Since the start of the tournament, some people who have attended World Cup matches in Qatar have said they have faced difficulties when trying to enter stadiums while wearing clothing in support of LGBT rights.

At Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium on Monday, ahead of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) match with Wales, US soccer journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McCallister said they were told to remove rainbow-colored clothing. Guard kit.

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