German players cover their mouths in protest against FIFA's crackdown on free speech in 'OneLove' armband row |  CNN

German players cover their mouths in protest against FIFA’s crackdown on free speech in ‘OneLove’ armband row | CNN


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

But a moment, the time it took photographers crowded in front of Germany’s World Cup squad to take a picture, was enough for the four-time winners to send a message to football’s world governing body.

The German starting XI all put their right hands in front of their mouths, and within minutes the image was circulating widely on social media.

And as Germany kicked off their World Cup campaign against Japan in Group E, the team’s social media feed confirmed the gesture was intended as a protest against FIFA’s decision to ban the game. “OneLove” armband that many European captains hoped to wear in Qatar. .

It was a game that produced another World Cup shock as Japan came from behind to win 2-1.

Ahead of the tournament, the captains of England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had planned to wear the armbands at the World Cup – – which features a heart striped in different colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and genders. identities – before FIFA clarified on Monday, players would receive a yellow card.

On Wednesday, the German Football Federation (DFB) posted a series of tweets shortly after the match kicked off stating that FIFA had blocked them from using their voices to speak at the World Cup on issues which fascinated them, hence the protest.

“We wanted to use our captain’s armband to uphold the values ​​we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect,” the DFB said. “Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.

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

“To deny us the armband is to deny us a vote,” added the DFB. “We maintain our position.”

CNN has contacted FIFA for comment.

Before countries announced that their captains would not wear the armband in Qatar, FIFA launched its own “No Discrimination” campaign and said all 32 captains would have the option of wearing a campaign-related armband.

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

German fan Nick Boettcher told CNN he was “sad” that FIFA had taken the stance of denying players the ability to wear the armband.

“FIFA makes a lot of questionable decisions and so it’s good for people to speak up,” Boettcher said. “I’m very proud that they did this. People will talk about it for sure and the attention will increase. The pressure on FIFA and Qatar is definitely increasing.

England fan Samir Cordell told CNN inside that stadium that he was “over the moon” with the protest.

“Germany and German fans should be proud,” he said. “I’m an England fan and I didn’t like to see England not wearing the armband. I would have loved to see Harry Kane wear it and get the booking. I think that’s great, I think that’s fantastic. Hats off to them.

A handful of Germany’s starting XI, including Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and İlkay Gündoğan, wore rainbow flags on their boots.

Germany’s protest comes after Wales’ Kane and Gareth Bale took to the pitch in their respective games on Monday without the ‘OneLove’ rainbow armband. German captain Manuel Neuer also did not wear the armband on Wednesday.

While Neuer opted not to wear the armband, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser was seen with it on her arm while watching the team’s game against Japan.

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

In a tweet, Faeser posted a photo of herself with the armband in the stands, in what appeared to be a show of solidarity with the national team.

Before the match, Faeser had criticized FIFA, lambasting the threat of sanctions for wearing the armband.

“It’s not right, the way the federations are being put under pressure,” she said during a visit to a German FA event, according to Reuters.

“Right now, it’s incomprehensible that FIFA doesn’t want people to openly stand up for tolerance and against discrimination. It does not correspond to our time and it is not appropriate towards 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 in the country – has come under fire for its stance on LGBTQ rights.

A report by Human Rights Watch, published last month, documented cases as recent as September where Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested LGBT people and subjected them to “ill-treatment in detention”.

However, the country has insisted that “everyone is welcome” at the tournament, adding in a statement to CNN this month that “our record has shown that we have warmly welcomed all people, regardless of age. origin”.

And since the start of the tournament, some people attending World Cup matches in Qatar have said they have encountered difficulties trying to enter stadiums wearing clothing that promotes LGBTQ rights.

At the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Monday, ahead of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) game against Wales, American football journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister both said they were told to remove the rainbow-colored clothing by security personnel.

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