Germany footballers covered their mouths during their official team photograph ahead of their World Cup match against Japan at a stadium in Qatar, in protest of FIFA's decision to ban an LGBTQ armband. The move was to convey a message that FIFA is silencing teams taking part in the World Cup in Qatar.
The world football governing body threatened punishment against teams and their captains if they carried out their intention to wear the "OneLove" armband, prompting Germany's act of defiance in the Khalifa Stadium in Doha on Wednesday. The captains of seven European nations were set to wear it to promote diversity and inclusion.
All of the German players took part in the gesture in front of scores of cameras on the field before the start of their Group E match against Japan. The four-time champions ultimately fell to their opponents 2-1, causing another major World Cup shock.
Soon after the protest and just before the match between Germany and Japan kicked off, the German Football Association (DFB) issued a statement firmly supporting its players. "To ban the armband is like banning our right to speak," DFB tweeted.
Germany captain Manuel Neuer wore the FIFA armband against Japan.
"We wanted to use our captain's armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect,' the DFB said on Twitter. 'Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard."
"It wasn't about making a political statement. Human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it still isn't the case. That's why this message is so important to us," a second tweet from DFB read.
"Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position."
Germany head coach Flick said it was a "sign" from his team.
"It was a sign, a message that we wanted to send out. We wanted to convey the message that FIFA is silencing us," he said after Germany's 2-1 loss to Japan.
Germany had planned to wear the OneLove armband, along with England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Showing Support Toward Diversity and Tolerance
FIFA has warned that it would punish the seven European teams if they wore the armband signifying tolerance and diversity. On Monday, FIFA reportedly placed pressure on England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Denmark to withdraw their plans to wear the insignia in the conservative Muslim nation.
On Monday, FIFA reportedly placed pressure on England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Denmark to withdraw their plans to wear the insignia in the conservative Muslim nation.
According to reports, it was initially decided that FIFA as punishment would give yellow card to a player donning the OneLove armband, but later reports said FIFA had threatened severe sanctions against the players and teams should they choose to wear the armband.
Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser who landed in Qatar on Tuesday to support the national football team in their tournament opener was seen wearing the OneLove armband while watching from the stands. When the game started, she removed the pink blazer she had been wearing over it, flashing the band and its heart-shaped insignia.
Security personnel at the World Cup have time and again ordered spectators to take off any clothes bearing rainbow insignia.
German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit, said in Berlin today that FIFA's decision to forbid captains from donning the armbands "very unfortunate."
The DFB said it is looking into the legality of FIFA's threat to penalize players for donning the armband. On Tuesday, the German FA announced that it may sue FIFA to have the ban lifted.