Germany cover mouths and wear rainbows on kit in World Cup protest

  • Support for LGBTQ+ rights and defiance of Fifa by team in Qatar
  • Sleeves of warm-up kit and some players’ boots have rainbows

A World Cup of protest and rancour has taken another incendiary turn with Germany’s players covering their mouths with their hands to suggest they had been gagged by football’s governing body, Fifa.

Their message was reinforced by the German interior minister, Nancy Faeser, who also wore a OneLove armband, which promotes tolerance, diversity and LGBTQ+ rights, as she sat next to Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino.

It was a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

It was a calculated act of defiance against Fifa, who has warned seven nations, including England and Wales, that they will face sporting sanctions if their captains wear OneLove armbands during matches.

Six players, including captain Manuel Neuer and Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, also wore Adidas boots with rainbow stitching during the team’s shock 2-1 defeat against Japan, while the entire German squad sported tops with rainbow colours on their sleeves in the warm-up.

In a strongly worded statement, the Germans made clear their anger, telling Fifa: “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.

Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, with the OneLove armband beside Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino
Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, with the OneLove armband beside Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino. Photograph: Friedemann Vogel/EPA

“It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable,” it added. “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. We stand by our position.”

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar and while organisers and Fifa have repeated the message that “everyone is welcome” during the World Cup (link), it is unclear whether laws that criminalise acts such as kissing in public have been suspended.

Similar levels of opaqueness exist when it comes to whether rainbow-coloured flags and clothing is allowed, given the Qataris have taken such attire off some fans. The authorities are still yet to respond to a protest by the Football Association of Wales after fans had rainbow-colour bucket hats removed by security guards before the game against the USA.

Meanwhile, England are also understood to be monitoring the fallout from Germany’s decision closely, with the Football Association among the countries looking into whether it will be legally possible to challenge Fifa’s threat to impose sporting sanctions wearing the OneLove armband.

The FA is deeply unhappy that their captain Harry Kane faced the prospect of an instant booking had he donned it against Iran. Fifa has not specified what sporting sanctions would have meant but the FA was under the firm impression that Kane would have been booked.

“As a squad we all stand for it,” England’s goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, said. “We all wanted Harry to wear it, but I think the decision got taken out of our hands as a squad and as players. If Harry wore it and got a yellow card and missed the next game it’s not going to be ideal for us.”

It remains to be seen if England’s players decide to follow their German counterparts by mounting a different form of protest before playing the USA tomorrow. Gareth Southgate attempted to draw a line under the issue after his side’s 6-2 win over Iran, arguing that he and his players should be allowed to concentrate on their performances on the pitch.

Rainbow colours on the boots of several Germany players before their game against Japan.
Rainbow colours on the boots of several Germany players before their game against Japan. Photograph: Ricardo Mazalán/AP

Football’s governing body later confirmed it would not be censuring the German FA or their players for their protest.

Asked why they had decided to protest, manager Hansi Flick said: “It was a sign, a message we wanted to send out and we wanted to deliver the message that Fifa is silencing us.” Striker Kai Havertz also stressed how important it was for Germany’s players to promote diversity and tolerance. “Of course, it’s important for us to make a statement like this,” he said. “We spoke before the game about what we could do and for us it was the right sign to show the people that we try to help wherever we can. Of course, Fifa makes it not easy for us.”

Fifa did confirm that it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador over homophobic chanting by their fans in their World Cup opener against Qatar.


Sean Ingle and Jacob Steinberg at Khalifa International Stadium

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
England and Wales plan to defy Fifa with OneLove armbands at World Cup
Harry Kane and Gareth Bale are expected to still wear armbands in support of LGBTQ+ rights after Fifa announced its own slogans

Paul MacInnes in Doha

19, Nov, 2022 @10:56 AM

Article image
‘Keep conquering’: Stéphanie Frappart ready for moment of World Cup history
When Germany play Costa Rica, Stéphanie Frappart will become the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match, a significant step forward for the game

Sean Ingle in Doha and Angelique Chrisafis

30, Nov, 2022 @9:12 PM

Article image
From start to limp finish, the OneLove armband saga has been a disappointment | Anita Asante
Football federations should take a stand on moral issues, but in Qatar they folded when Fifa put them under pressure

Anita Asante

26, Nov, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Louis van Gaal says Dutch will not copy Germany protests at World Cup
Louis van Gaal has questioned Germany’s defiant stance against Fifa by stating the Netherlands will not risk doing the same as they want to win the World Cup

Jamie Jackson in Doha

24, Nov, 2022 @2:57 PM

Article image
‘Very frustrated’: England and Wales back down over OneLove armband
England, Wales and five other European nations have confirmed they will not wear the OneLove armband at the World Cup after a warning from Fifa

Sean Ingle and Nick Ames in Doha

21, Nov, 2022 @10:06 AM

Article image
England feared ‘unlimited liability’ on captains in dropping armband protest
England, Wales and five other nations dropped their pro-diversity armband protest at the World Cup because they feared ‘unlimited liability’ would be placed on their captains

Jacob Steinberg in Doha

24, Nov, 2022 @10:30 PM

Article image
German football federation to take legal action over Fifa’s OneLove armband ban
Move comes after supermarket chain cuts commercial ties with DFB in protest over row at World Cup

Kate Connolly in Berlin

22, Nov, 2022 @6:07 PM

Article image
Flick flies solo to defy Fifa as Germany prepare for crucial Spain clash
Manager breaks rules by handling press duties alone as his players look to bounce back from shock defeat against Japan

Andy Hunter in Doha

26, Nov, 2022 @5:02 PM

Article image
Gianni Infantino announces 32-team men’s Club World Cup in 2025
Gianni Infantino has risked a major row with Europe’s leading federations by announcing that Fifa will launch a 32-team men’s Club World Cup in 2025

Nick Ames in Doha

16, Dec, 2022 @2:24 PM

Article image
Sepp Blatter says choosing Qatar to host World Cup was ‘a mistake’
Handing the World Cup to Qatar was a ‘mistake’ and a ‘bad choice’ according to the former Fifa president Sepp Blatter

Paul MacInnes

08, Nov, 2022 @1:47 PM