The players who started for Germany in their opening match at the World Cup on Wednesday covered their mouths during the traditional pregame team photograph before facing Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium on Wednesday in protest of a FIFA decision that kept their captain from wearing a rainbow-colored armband in the match as part of a social justice campaign.
FIFA, soccer’s governing body, had prevented Germany and several other European team captains from wearing armbands promoting gay rights by threatening them with yellow cards.
The campaign was meant to raise awareness of marginalized groups in the host country, Qatar, which criminalizes homosexual conduct.
“It wasn’t about making a political statement — human rights are non-negotiable,” the team said in a statement posted on its official Twitter account. “That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice.”
Germany was part of a group of at least seven European countries, including England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands, who backed down from the plan to have their captains wear rainbow armbands after FIFA’s threat. “As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games,” the national federations said in a joint statement.