A World Cup of protest and rancor has taken another inflammatory turn with German players covering their mouths with their hands to suggest they were gagged by football’s governing body, FIFA.
Their message was reinforced by German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who also wore a OneLove bracelet, promoting tolerance, diversity and LGBTQ+ rights, as she sat next to Fifa President Gianni Infantino.
It was a calculated act of defiance against FIFA, which has warned seven countries, including England and Wales, that they face sporting sanctions if their captains wear OneLove armbands during matches.
Six players, including Manchester City captain Manuel Neuer and Ilkay Gundogan, also wore rainbow-stitched Adidas boots during the team’s shock 2-1 defeat to Japan, while the entire German squad wore rainbow sleeve tops during warm-up. wore.
In a strongly worded statement, the Germans made their anger clear, telling FIFA: “We wanted to use our captaincy to stand up for values we have in the German national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voices to be heard.
“It was not about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable,” it added. “That should go without saying, but it still isn’t. That’s why this post is so important to us. Denying us the bracelet is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar and while organizers and FIFA have reiterated the message that “everyone is welcome” during the World Cup (link), it is unclear whether laws criminalizing acts such as kissing in public have been enacted. suspended.
There are similar levels of opacity when it comes to whether rainbow-colored flags and clothing are allowed, as the Qataris have taken away such clothing from some fans. Authorities are yet to respond to a protest from the Football Association of Wales after fans had rainbow colored bucket hats removed by security guards ahead of the game against the USA.
Meanwhile, England is also believed to be closely monitoring the fallout from Germany’s decision, with the Football Association among the countries investigating whether it will be legally possible to challenge Fifa’s threat to impose sports sanctions for wearing the OneLove bracelet.
The FA is deeply unhappy that their captain Harry Kane had the prospect of an immediate booking if he had taken on Iran. FIFA has not specified what sporting sanctions would have meant, but the FA’s firm impression was that Kane would have been booked.
“As a team we are all in it,” said England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. “We all wanted Harry to wear it, but I think the decision has been taken out of our hands as a team and as players. If Harry wore it and got booked and missed the next game, it’s not ideal for us. “
It remains to be seen if the England players decide to follow their German counterparts by mounting another form of protest before playing against the US tomorrow. Gareth Southgate tried to draw a line under the issue after his side’s 6-2 win over Iran, arguing that he and his players should be able to focus on their performance on the pitch.
Football’s governing body later confirmed that it would not denounce the German Football Association or their players for their protest.
When asked why they had decided to protest, manager Hansi Flick said: “It was a sign, a message that we wanted to get out and we wanted to get the message across that FIFA is silencing us.” Striker Kai Havertz also stressed how important it is for the 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 where we can. Of course FIFA doesn’t make it easy for us.”
FIFA did confirm that it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador over homophobic chanting by their fans during their World Cup opener against Qatar.