The German national football team covered their mouths during a team photo ahead of their World Cup opening match against Japan to protest FIFA’s effective banning of the “OneLove” rainbow armband intended to show support for LGBT rights.
The starting XI, consisting of superstars such Thomas Muller, Joshua Kimmich, and captain Manuel Neuer, posed for the photo with their right hands covering their mouths, as though they had been silenced by FIFA’s threat to award yellow cards to any player who sported the rainbow armband on the pitch at this year’s tournament in the Islamic, conservative nation of Qatar.
“With our captain’s armband, we wanted to set an example for values that we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect. Be loud together with other nations. This is not about a political message: human rights are non-negotiable,” the German football federation tweeted ahead of Wednesday’s fixture with Japan.
“That should go without saying. Unfortunately it still isn’t. That is why this message is so important to us. Banning us from the armband is like banning our mouths. Our stance stands,” they added.
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Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser, known for her attempts to stifle conservative voices in her own country and ban the entire Telegram messaging app over its support for free speech, attended the fixture at the Khalifa International Stadium in the Qatari capital of Doha. She was pictured sporting the armband next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who launched a controversial defense of Qatar prior to the tournament opener on Sunday in which he slammed critics of the country for its mistreatment of migrant workers and intolerance towards the LGBT community.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Muslim country ruled by Sharia law, and both men and women can face action under the Penal Code 2004, which criminalizes same-sex activity and can lead to custodial sentences of up to seven years.
Some conservatives in the West have come to the defense of Qatar, arguing that Westerners should respect the country’s values, even if they are not the values of the West. One tweet from Qatari user @binnahari85 received over 700,000 likes claimed that the West should respect Qatari culture. His tweet was then backed by Christina Pushew, an official working with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who wrote, “As an American, my values are different from your values… but the thing is, I do not travel to your country and expect your people to change and conform to my values. I don’t see why this is so hard for American liberals to understand.”
Germany is just one of many European nations including England, Wales, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Switzerland who planned to have their captains wear the rainbow armband in a showing of solidarity toward the LGBT community.
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In a statement threatening disciplinary action for transgressors, FIFA pointed to Article 13.8.1 of the Equipment Rules: “For FIFA finals, the captain of each team must wear an armband provided by FIFA.”
FIFA claimed that while it supports campaigns like “One Love,” this support must be done within the framework of the rules.
Germany lost their opening fixture of the tournament against Japan 1-2, conceding two late counter-attacking goals in the second half after an İlkay Gündoğan penalty had given the European side a half-time lead.