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 was taken, Germany engaged in a silent rebellion against FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, which banned their captain from wearing a multicolored armband in the match as part of the match. campaign for social justice.
The measure came two days after FIFA banned not only Germany but many other European teams from wearing badges promoting LGBT rights. And threatening them with discipline in the gamea decision that ultimately angered the teams – and led to accusations of bullying against the tournament organizer – but which was also ultimately adhered to.
The aim of the campaign was to educate marginalized groups in the host country, Qatar, which criminalizes same-sex behaviour. The team had notified FIFA of their plans in September but only received a response hours before England, the first of teams to pledge a stand, opened their campaign 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.”
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Germany have been among the most vocal of teams – and fan bases – on the issue and broader human rights concerns in Qatar, displaying banners critical of the tiny Gulf emirate, and FIFA has been regularly watching Germany’s league matches this season. German politicians have also angered Qatar, with vocal criticism in the days leading up to the World Cup.
That anger likely escalated on Wednesday. Even before the players made their presentation on the pitch, German Interior Minister Nancy Weser made her own statement in the seats reserved for FIFA’s most important guests. Visser arrived on the field in a pink suit. But by the time she took over as the next FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, she had removed the jacket to reveal a multicolored “One Love” armband that Germany captain Manuel Neuer and the others were preparing to wear. Wasser, who is not part of the Germany delegation, cannot receive a yellow card.
The early days of the tournament were overshadowed by the armbands issue, as FIFA’s attempts to shift focus entirely to on-field events were undermined by the daily controversy over the banning of symbols supporting the LGBTQ community. Such is the sensitivity that hyper-security guards have baffled some fans banning clothing and signs that were not intended as a form of protest, including one incident in which 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 others were more outspoken.
German officials are reported to be 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, even spoke of the possibility of leaving FIFA, saying his organization had already decided not to approve Infantino’s re-election at a meeting in March where the president would be 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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