Ahead of its stunning 2-1 upset loss against Japan on Wednesday, Germany staged a protest in response to the Qatari government and FIFA’s censorship of certain gestures at the World Cup.
For its traditional pre-match photo, members of the German men’s national team covered their mouths in response to the governing entities banning team captains from wearing OneLove armbands during World Cup matches.
“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,” the German Football Association said in a tweet. “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.”
Several World Cup team captains were planning to wear the armbands to support LGBTQ+ rights — but abandoned the plan after FIFA reportedly planned to give a yellow card to any player wearing the armband.
Thomas Müller — who sometimes wears the armband for Germany — took to Instagram on Tuesday to explain the situation and reiterate the team’s commitment to supporting the cause.
“The unrest surrounding the events leading up to the World Cup tournament in Qatar, the ban on the One Love armband and other strange actions and statements by FIFA are keeping us players and the entire team concerned,” he said in the caption, translated from German. “FIFA’s position, as well as the way of communication regarding the ban on armbands, is in no way understandable for us.”
The 33-year-old also defended the captains’ decisions not to wear the armbands.
“Anyone who expects us footballers to completely abandon our path as athletes and give up our sporting dreams, for which we worked all our football lives, to position ourselves even more politically, will be disappointed,” Müller said.
However, just because players couldn’t wear the OneLove armband doesn’t mean it didn’t make its way to the pitch.
Former England women’s national team player Alex Scott wore the armband while doing a sideline report for the BBC ahead of the England men’s opening match against Iran.