Germany v Japan: German players cover their mouths to protest FIFA’s crackdown on free speech in the ‘OneLove’ armband row.



Cnn

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

But one moment, the time it took for the photographers massed in front of the German World Cup squad to snap a photo, was enough for the four-time winners to send a message to soccer’s world governing body.

Germany’s starting eleven all posed with 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 armband. “OneLove” 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.

Prior to the tournament, the captains of England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark planned to wear the armband at the World Cup – – which features a striped heart in different colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities – before FIFA cleared up on Monday, the players would be booked.

On Wednesday, the German Football Association (DFB) released a series of tweets shortly after the match started indicating that FIFA had prevented them from using their voice to speak at the World Cup about issues they were passionate about, hence the outcry.

“We wanted to use our captain’s armband to defend the values ​​we have in the German national team: diversity and mutual respect,” said the DFB. “Along 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. That’s why this message is so important to us.

“To deny us the bracelet is to deny us a voice,” the DFB added. “We stand our ground.”

CNN has reached out to FIFA for comment.

Before countries announced that their captains would not wear the armband in Qatar, FIFA had carried out their own “No Discrimination” campaign and said that all 32 captains would have the opportunity to wear a campaign-related armband.

Germany fan Nick Boettcher told CNN he was “sad” that FIFA has taken a stand to deny players the opportunity to wear armbands.

“FIFA is making a lot of questionable decisions and so it’s good that people are talking,” said Boettcher. “I am very proud that they did. People will definitely talk about it and the attention will grow. The pressure on Fifa and Qatar is definitely increasing.”

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

“Germany and the German fans should be proud,” he said. “I’m an England fan and I didn’t like seeing England without the armband. I would have loved to see Harry Kane wear it and get the reservation. I think it’s great, I think it’s great. Hats off to them.

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

Germany’s outcry comes after both Kane and Wales’ Gareth Bale took to the field in their respective matches on Monday without the ‘OneLove’ rainbow armband. Germany captain Manuel Neuer also did not wear his armband on Wednesday.

While Neuer opted not to wear the armband, German interior minister Nancy Faeser was seen with it on her arm while attending the team’s match against Japan.

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

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

Before the match, Faeser had criticized FIFA, slamming the threat of penalties for wearing the armband.

“This is not good, as the federations are being put under pressure,” he said during a visit to a German FA event, according to Reuters.

“In today’s times it is incomprehensible that FIFA doesn’t want people to openly stand up for tolerance and against discrimination. It doesn’t fit our times and it’s not appropriate for 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 criticism for its stance on LGBTQ rights.

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

However, the country insisted that “all are welcome” to the tournament, adding in a statement to CNN this month that “our track record has shown that we have warmly welcomed all people regardless of background.”

And since the start of the tournament, some people who have attended World Cup matches in Qatar have said they have experienced difficulties trying to enter stadiums wearing clothes in support of LGBTQ rights.

Ahead of the United States men’s national team (USMNT) match against Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Monday, US soccer journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister both said they had received the order to remove rainbow colored clothing from security personnel.

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