Germany players cover their mouths at the World Cup to protest FIFA

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Germany’s players covered their mouths for team photo ahead of World Cup opener match on Wednesday to protest FIFA following the governing body’s crackdown on the ‘One Love’ armband.

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

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

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

Team captains, including Germany captain Manuel Neuer, had planned to wear the armband with the multi-coloured heart logo, a symbol of inclusion and diversity. But the seven associations backed down after FIFA made clear they faced consequences if they didn’t.

“We may have our bands taken away from us, but we will never let our voices be taken away from us,” Neuer said. “We are for human rights. This is what we wanted to show. We may have been silenced by FIFA regarding the captaincy, 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 that we wanted to send a signal.”

FIFA said Germany would face no disciplinary action over the gesture.

Against Japan, Neuer wore an armband with the FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” slogan, although it was hard to see under the sleeve of his jersey. Neuer said he was too wide and he kept sliding.

The German soccer federation issued a statement on Twitter during Wednesday’s match stating its position.

“With our captaincy we wanted to give a signal to the values ​​we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect. Being loud together with other nations.

“It is not a political message: human rights are not negotiable. It should go without saying. Unfortunately it is not yet. That’s why this message is so important to us,” the federation said. “Denying us the armband is like muzzling us. Our position is valid.”

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

FIFA issued its warning to the associations on Monday, just hours before England and the Netherlands are due to play with their captains wearing ‘One Love’ armbands. The governing body said the players would immediately be shown a yellow card and could face further consequences.

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

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who is also responsible for sport, wore a ‘One Love’ armband in the stands at the match against Germany, where she sat next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Faeser posted a picture of himself on Twitter wearing it with the hashtag #OneLove.

DPA news agency reported that Faeser wore the armband under a pink blazer that she had taken off during the first half.

Earlier, Faeser criticized Qatar for forcing a German fan to remove a rainbow-colored armband and armband in another match.

“This is not in line with my understanding of the security guarantees given to me by the (Qatar) interior minister,” Faeser said. “Security must apply to all people. I am very disappointed about this.”

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

Faeser said “such symbols should be displayed openly.”

In a later match, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wore the “One Love” armband when she met Infantino at her country’s match against Canada. She too he posted a picture of himself on Twitter wearing the headband.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup And https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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