Germany on armband row: FIFA’s muzzling us

Football

Germany players placed their hands over their mouths during a team photo ahead of their World Cup Group E game against Japan on Wednesday as the row over FIFA’s threat of sanctions over the “OneLove” armband continued.

All Germany players took part in the gesture in front of dozens of photographers on the pitch ahead of kickoff, after world football body FIFA had threatened seven European teams with sanctions if they wore the armband symbolising diversity and tolerance.

“Of course it’s important for us to do a statement like this,” Germany striker Kai Havertz told ESPN postmatch. “We spoke about the game, what we can do, and I think first it was the right time to do to show the people that — yeah we try to help wherever we can. Of course FIFA makes it not easy for us but we tried to show with that thing.”

Added Germany coach Hansi Flick: “It was a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is muzzling us.”

Team captains, including Germany captain Manuel Neuer, had planned to wear the armband with the heart-shaped, multicolored logo, a symbol for inclusion and diversity.

“We may have our bands taken away from us, but we’ll never let our voices be taken from us,” Neuer said. “We stand for human rights. That’s what we wanted to show. We may have been silenced by FIFA regarding the captain’s armbands, but we always stand for our values.”

Neuer said the idea for the mouth-covering gesture came from the team.

“We really wanted to do something and we thought about what we could do,” Neuer said. “It was clear that we wanted to send a signal.”

Germany interior minister Nancy Faeser, sitting next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the stands, sported the armband as she chatted with the football administrator.

Earlier, she had criticised FIFA, saying the threat of sanctions was a mistake and not acceptable behaviour.

“This is not all right, how federations are being put under pressure,” Faeser said during a visit to a German FA event in Doha, Qatar, before the game.

“In today’s times it is incomprehensible that FIFA does not want people to openly stand for tolerance and against discrimination. It does not fit in our times, and it is not appropriate towards people.”

A statement from the German Football Association (DFB) said: “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. 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. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

Same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar.

Netherlands forward Davvy Klaassen said his side could join Germany in making the prematch protest, but have not yet made a decision.

“Of course we as a group are thinking about coming up with such a statement. That must be in a good way,” Klaassen said. “I think what the Germans have now done… it’s an original way to spread the message. I thought this was a nice expression from the Germans.”

Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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