After entering the field for their first match of the Qatar World Cup yesterday, November 23, the German national football team protested FIFA’s ban on the OneLove armbands, which would have symbolised the team’s stance against LGBTQ+ rights abuses perpetrated in the Gulf State.
Right before facing Japan in their first match of the tournament, the entire German team posed for the traditional pre-game photo by covering their mouths in defiance of FIFA’s decision to impose sanctions on the team captains wearing OneLove armbands while playing in Qatar.
The OneLove armbands were supposed to be worn by the captains of eight European football teams as part of a campaign to promote inclusivity during the 2022 World Cup held in Qatar. Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment and even death in Qatar and the country has a poor track record on human rights, specifically for women, LGBTQ+ people and migrant workers.
After FIFA announced that the team captains sporting the accessory on the field would be given yellow cards, making them more vulnerable to suspensions, seven teams, including Germany, England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands and Switzerland, published a joint statement declaring that their captains wouldn’t be wearing the OneLove armbands.
With the act of covering their mouth, the German team contested FIFA’s sanctions, suggesting that they had been silenced by the governing body. “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.” stated a post on the team’s official Twitter account.
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. pic.twitter.com/tiQKuE4XV7
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) November 23, 2022
“Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard,” the statement read, “Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
Although the protest was praised by some as a powerful symbol of defiance, others have suggested that the team could have done more. Former Ireland captain Roy Keane, who had already spoken out about the European teams’ decision to not wear the OneLove armband, said “It’s a gesture and it’s a start but I think they can do a lot more.”
“The most important people in football are the supporters and the players. Use your voice! Use your voice! Wear the armband. Leadership is about action, Go and do it.” he continued.
German Minister, Nancy Faeser, sitting next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the Germany v Japan game… wearing the One Love armband 👏 pic.twitter.com/y8ox5cuJIX
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) November 23, 2022
People outside the football field are also showing defiance of FIFA’s decision to ban the OneLove armbands. Footage has emerged of the German and Belgian ministers sitting on the stands next to FIFA’s president Gianni Infantilni while wearing the OneLove armband.
The controversy over FIFA’s decision to allow Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup has dominated headlines for weeks and the silent protest staged by the German football team is but one of many forms of criticism of how this year’s event has been handled. Yesterday, it was announced that FIFA and Qatari officials were in urgent talks after fans were forced to remove rainbow items of clothing when entering World Cup stadiums.
Speaking to Reuters, journalist Victor Pereira reported the latest episode of what LGBTQ+ fans are facing in Qatar, as he recounted how a Brazilian state flag was confiscated outside of the stadium because Qatari police mistook it for a Pride flag.
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