Prior to their World Cup match against Japan Wednesday, German players placed their hands over their mouths during a team photo in response to FIFA’s call for sanctions if players wore the “OneLove” rainbow-colored armband.
“It was a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is muzzling us,” German coach Hansi Flick told ESPN.
Seven European teams came together with the idea to wear the armband, which symbolizes “diversity and tolerance,” as a statement for the harsh laws that restrict human rights in Qatar like same-sex unions and women’s rights as well as the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums for the tournament.
“Of course, it’s important for us to do a statement like this,” German striker Kai Havertz said. “We spoke about the game, what we can do, and I think first it was the right thing 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.”
“We may have our bands taken away from us, but we’ll never let our voices be taken from us,” German captain Manuel 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.”
Nancy Faeser, Germany interior minister, sat next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the match, and she was seen wearing an armband while speaking with him.
“This is not all right, how federations are being put under pressure,” she told ESPN prior to the game.
“In today’s times, it is incomprehensible that FIFA does not want people to openly stand for tolerance and against discrimination.”
In a statement, the German Football Association said, “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.”
Other countries, including the Netherlands, which plays Friday, are thinking of ways of making statements of their own.
Germany lost its match to Japan in surprising fashion, dropping its World Cup opener, 2-1. Germany will be back in action Sunday against a World Cup favorite, Spain, which beat Costa Rica 7-0 Wednesday.