German players cover their mouths as they pose for a team group ahead of the FIFA World Cup Group E match at the Khalifa International Stadium, Doha.
Germany’s football team made a powerful statement by saying nothing at all ahead of their first game at the Qatar World Cup.
The players appeared to suggest they had been silenced by placing their hands over their mouths just before their game against Japan.
It was taken as a dig about Fifa’s threat to sanction any of the seven nations – including Germany – where players planned on wearing a One Love armband, a symbol of inclusion and unity.
Qatar has been under intense scrutiny over its human rights record, particularly when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and the treatment of women and migrant workers in the country.
England’s captain Harry Kane was going to be the first player to wear the armband on Monday when the team played against Iran, but Fifa threatened to automatically hand him a yellow card.
England, Wales, Holland and Denmark, four of the original seven nations who played to show their support for One Love, then went ahead with their games without the armbands (and without public protest) – unlike Germany.
Germany’s team also had rainbow stripes down the shoulders of their warm-up shirts, with several players wearing rainbow colours on their boots.
The squad’s captain Manuel Neuer also had his armband checked by the assistant referee, but he was wearing the anti-discrimination armband approved by Fifa so did not face any sanctions.
This comes after Qatar has confiscated rainbow-coloured items before allowing fans into stadiums, as it is a symbol of unity with the LGBTQ+ community.
Still, there have been other small signs of protest throughout the controversial tournament.
The UK commentator Alex Scott proudly wore her One Love armband while broadcasting live, while the German interior minister Nancy Faeser was seen wearing her own while standing in the Khalifa International Stadium.
She was standing next to the president of the German Football Association at the time too, Bernd Neuendorf.
Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, who previously urged players and teams not to make football political or hand out lessons on morality, was also near Faeser at the time of her own silent protest.
DO: President of the German Football Association (DFB), Bernd Neuendorf & German Federal Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser – her OneLove armband is clearly visible