German players covered their mouths with their hands during a team photo on Wednesday ahead of their first World Cup match against Japan amid an ongoing battle with FIFA over the threat of sanctions for wearing the “OneLove” armband.
Earlier this week, FIFA threatened seven European team captains with sanctions, including yellow cards, if they wear the OneLove armband, which symbolizes diversity and tolerance.
Nancy Faezer, Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior and Communities, wore the eyepatch on Wednesday as she sat next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who launched a surreal tirade on Saturday, saying in part: “Today I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel like a labor migrant.”
Faezer has previously criticized FIFA, saying the threat of sanctions is unacceptable.
“It’s not like there’s pressure on the federations,” Faezer said ahead of Germany’s opening game. “In today’s times, it is incomprehensible that FIFA does not want people to openly speak out for tolerance and against discrimination. It doesn’t fit in our times and doesn’t suit people.”
In a statement released by the German Football Association, the organization said: “To deny us an armband is the same as denying us the right to vote. We stand our ground.”
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“We wanted to use our captain’s armband to uphold the values we share in the German national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard. It was not a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable. This should be taken for granted, but this is still not the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us an armband is like denying us a voice. We stand on our position,” the message says.
Although Germany scored first on the scoreboard against Japan on Wednesday, they lost the first leg 2-1.