German players have taken the OneLove armband protest to a new level as their players cover their mouths during a team photo at the World Cup, but it is understandable that they will not face any disciplinary action from FIFA.
The move marked another day of tensions between the seven European nations that supported the OneLove campaign and FIFA, with the Football Association exploring legal options on the matter with their Danish and German counterparts.
The FA declined to comment on whether England imitated the German gesture ahead of Friday’s game against the United States.
Speaking of the “covered mouth” gesture after his team’s 2-1 defeat to Japan, Germany coach Hansi Flick said: “It was a sign, a message we wanted to convey. We wanted to send the message that FIFA is silencing us.”
Flick referred to the fact that those nations that wanted to wear the OneLove armband were threatened with sporting sanctions by Fifa – starting with issuing yellow cards to their captains – for wearing the rainbow armbands.
The OneLove campaign launched in September and will run for a year, but was set to be particularly significant during the World Cup in Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are criminalized.
The PA news agency understands that the group’s lawyers are looking at the legislation to investigate the sanctions that associations have been threatened with. Danish federation chief executive Jakob Jensen confirmed that legal options were being considered, but said the group could not immediately go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The German gesture may have prompted FIFA to initiate disciplinary proceedings under Article 11 of its Disciplinary Code. It states that anyone who “exploits a sporting event for non-sporting demonstrations” can be punished.
FIFA has yet to comment on what the German team has done, but it is known that there will be no formal disciplinary action by the governing body.
A tweet from the German federation read: “We wanted to use the captain’s armband to stand up for the values we stand for in the German national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.
“It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are not negotiable. This should be taken for granted, but still it is not. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us a wristband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
However, there is a risk that the German gesture will be an isolated one.
Switzerland is also part of the OneLove group, but their captain Granit Xhaka has indicated that his team will not hold a similar protest ahead of Thursday’s opening game against Cameroon.
“This gesture was decided by Germany, but I don’t think we have to do anything as a Swiss team. We just have to accept the rules and that’s it,” said the Arsenal midfielder.
“We don’t need to discuss this any longer. Now we have to focus on football and that’s the only thing I’m going to do.
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was asked about the armband controversy on Wednesday and said: “As a team, we’ve all spoken and we all support it. We all wanted Harry to wear it, but I think the decision was made in our hands as a team and players. It went higher than it really is.”
Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen said on Tuesday he felt players were afraid to speak out in Qatar and were being scrutinized. The Red Devils, who are also part of the OneLove group, kicked off their World Cup campaign against Canada on Wednesday night but made no move before kick-off.
The Football Association of Wales did not comment when asked if it would explore legal options on the matter.
Germany’s gesture on the pitch was reinforced in the stands at Khalifa Stadium by Home Secretary Nancy Faeser wearing a OneLove armband in the VIP lounge.
To her right sat FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who launched an extraordinary attack on the “hypocrisy” of European nations for criticizing Qatar on human rights issues on the eve of the tournament.
Dissatisfaction with FIFA is growing among the group, the German federation said just before the tournament that it would not support the re-election of Infantino, who is expected to be unopposed in the vote next year, while the Danish federation took the same stance.