Germany players cover mouths over ‘OneLove’ armband controversy

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wore the rainbow-coloured armband as she watched Germany play Japan.

Germany’s players covered their mouths during a team photo ahead of their World Cup opener against Japan on Wednesday in protest at FIFA’s threat to sanction players for wearing the “OneLove” armband.

The gesture, which took place in front of dozens of photographers, came after the world football body had threatened to book players for wearing the rainbow-coloured armbands.

The captains of seven European teams had planned to wear them as part of an anti-discrimination campaign, but backed down after the threat of disciplinary action.

The Dutch football association, KNVB, said on Wednesday that the seven countries – the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, England and Wales – were jointly considering their legal options.

Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser did wear the “OneLove” armband as she sat next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the game at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

“In today’s times, it is incomprehensible that FIFA does not want people to openly stand for tolerance and against discrimination. It does not fit in our times and it is not appropriate towards people,” Faeser said during a visit to a German Football Association event in Doha before the game.

Fans should also be allowed to “openly” show pro-LGBTQ symbols, Faeser told reporters, adding that supporters should “make a decision for themselves” about whether they wanted to wear them.

The criminalisation of same-sex relations in Qatar, the tournament’s host country, has been a long-running controversy in the build-up to the World Cup.

Qatar has repeatedly stated that everyone is welcome to attend the tournament. The government has also accused critics of “double standards” and of engaging in an “unprecedented campaign” unlike that faced by any other host country.

Moments after the team photo, the German Football Association tweeted it with the message: “It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable.

“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said earlier in the day in Berlin that FIFA’s decision to bar captains from wearing the armbands was “very unfortunate”.

“The rights of LGBTQ people are non-negotiable,” Hebestreit told a press conference.

Security staff at the World Cup have ordered spectators to remove items of clothing featuring rainbow logos.

Underlining tensions at the tournament over the issue, Belgium player Jan Vertonghen said on Tuesday that he was “afraid” to talk about human rights.

Vertonghen, speaking on the eve of Belgium’s opening game against Canada later on Wednesday, said he did not feel comfortable.

“I’m afraid if I say something about this I might not be able to play tomorrow,” the defender said.

“It’s an experience I’ve never felt in football before. I feel controlled. I’m afraid to even say something about this.

“We’re just saying normal things about racism and discrimination and if you can’t even say things about it, that says it all.

“I want to appear on the pitch tomorrow, so I’ll leave it at that.”

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