German World Cup players cover their mouths in protest of FIFA’s ban on ‘One Love’ armbands.

Germany players covered their mouths for the team photo before their opening World Cup match on Wednesday to protest against FIFA after the crackdown by the ruling body on the “One Love” armband.

The Germany team lined up in the traditional formation before their match against Japan and all 11 players covered their mouths with their right hands in a coordinated move.

“It was a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is silencing us,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said after the match, which his side lost 2-1.

Germany v Japan: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Germany players cover their mouths in protest as they pose for a group photo before their FIFA World Cup Group E match against Japan at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022, in Doha, Qatar.

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The gesture was a response to FIFA’s effective rejection of plans by seven European teams to wear armbands seen as a rebuke to host nation Qatar. and its human rights record.

Team captains, including Germany captain Manuel Neuer, had planned to wear the armband with the colorful heart-shaped logo, a symbol for inclusion and diversity. But the seven confederations backed down after FIFA made it clear they would face consequences if they did not.

“Our bands may be taken from us, but we will 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 about the captain’s armbands, but we always stand up for our values.”

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

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

FIFA said Germany would not face disciplinary action over the gesture.

Against Japan, Neuer wore an armband with the FIFA-sanctioned “No Discrimination” slogan, although it was hard to see under his shirt sleeve. Neuer said it was too loose and kept slipping.

The German Football Association released a statement on Twitter during Wednesday’s game stating his position.

“With our captain’s armband, we wanted to send a message about values ​​we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect. To be strong together with other nations.

“It is not a political message: human rights are non-negotiable. This should be obvious. Unfortunately it is not yet. That is why this message is so important to us,” the federation said. “Denying us the armband is like silencing us. Our stance remains.”

Qatar has come under scrutiny for its human rights record and laws criminalizing homosexuality.

FIFA issued its warning to associations on Monday, hours before England and the Netherlands are set to play with their captains wearing ‘One Love’ armbands. The governing body said the players will receive an immediate yellow card and may face further consequences.

German FA president Bernd Neuendorf called the warning “another low blow” from FIFA.

German Interior Minister Nancy Feiser, who is also in charge of sports, wore a “One Love” armband in the stands at the Germany game, where she sat next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Faeser posted a photo of herself wearing it on Twitter with the hashtag #OneLove.

The DPA news agency reported that Faeser was wearing the armband under a pink jacket that she took off in the first half.

Earlier, Faeser criticized Qatar for forcing a German fan to remove a rainbow armband and headband in another game.

“This is inconsistent with my understanding of the security assurances given to me by the (Qatar) interior minister,” Fazer said. “Safety should apply to all people. I’m very disappointed about that.”

The rainbow flag is widely used as a symbol of tolerance regarding sexual diversity.

Faeser said “such symbols should be displayed openly.”

At a later game, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wore the “One Love” armband when she met Infantino at her country’s game with Canada. She also posted a photo of herself on Twitter wearing the band.

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