DOHA, Qatar — When photographers lined up at Khalifa International Stadium, preparing for the traditional but often routine ritual of a team photo op, Germany’s World Cup players made it their moment to take a stand.
Raising their right hands to their mouths and keeping them there until the last shot, Germany engaged in a silent rebellion against FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, which banned its captain from wearing a multicolored armband at the match as part of the match. campaign for social justice.
The measure came two days after FIFA banned not only Germany but several other European teams from wearing badges promoting LGBT rights. And threatening them with discipline in the gamea decision that angered the teams—and led to accusations of bullying against the tournament organizer—but was eventually followed through.
The aim of the campaign was to educate marginalized groups in the host country, Qatar, which criminalizes same-sex behaviour. The teams had notified FIFA of their plans in September but did not receive a response until hours before their England campaign, the first of those to pledge to stand up to it, was to begin on Monday. Teams said they expected to be fined for breaking FIFA’s strict dress code regulations, but were instead told that their captains would receive a yellow card.
“It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable,” Germany’s team said. A statement posted on her official Twitter account Moments after kick off they lost 2-1. This should be taken for granted, but so far this is not the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. To deny us the armband is the same as to deny us a voice.”
Brief guide to the 2022 World Cup
What is the World Cup? Held every four years, the event pits the best national football teams against each other for the title of World Champion. Here’s a primer for 2022 Men’s Championship:
Germany have been among the most outspoken teams – and fan bases – regarding Qatar’s human rights concerns; Banners critical of the tiny Gulf emirate and FIFA have been a regular sight at league matches in Germany this season. The country’s politicians also angered Qatar with outspoken criticism in the days leading up to the World Cup.
That anger likely escalated on Wednesday. Before the players made their presentation on the pitch, German Minister of the Interior Nancy Wesser made her own statement in the seats reserved for FIFA’s most important guests. She arrived on the pitch in a pink suit, but by the time she was seated next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, she had removed the jacket to reveal a multicolored armband bearing Germany captain Manuel Neuer’s “One Love” motto, and the others were getting ready to don. Wasser, who is not part of the Germany delegation, cannot receive a yellow card.
The armbands rule overshadowed the early days of the tournament. FIFA’s attempts to shift focus to the field have been undermined by the daily controversy over its banning of symbols that support the LGBTQ community. Some fans were confused by overprotective security guards banning clothing and banners that were not intended as a form of protest, including in one incident where a fan was denied entry to the stadium. With the flag of PernambucoBrazilian state.
FIFA did not comment on Wednesday on Germany’s protest. But other officials were more forthright.
German officials are reportedly studying their legal options and plan to file a complaint with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The chief executive of the Football Association of Denmark, Jacob Jensen, has spoken out about possibly leaving FIFA, saying his organization has already decided not to approve Infantino’s re-election in March. The president is the only candidate.
“We have been discussing this in the Nordic region since August,” Jensen said about the possibility of Denmark’s withdrawal from the organisation. “I’ve thought about it again. I imagine there might be challenges if she leaves Denmark alone. But let’s see if we can’t have a conversation about things.”
“I have to think about the question of how to restore confidence in FIFA. We must assess what happened, and then we must develop a strategy, also with our Nordic colleagues.”
Fifa’s silence on the matter since announcing a decision with the teams has fueled speculation as to whether it or Qatari officials are setting the guidelines for what is permitted on the pitch. Tricolor flags, bearing the words “Free Palestine,” for example, appeared in the Tunisian section of Tuesday’s match against Denmark, a day after FIFA cracked down on Iranian fans who wore T-shirts or banners critical of the Iranian government.
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