Germany players covered their mouths with their hands and donned rainbow stripes on their jerseys and warm-up boots in a blatant declaration of disobedience to FIFA ahead of the Group E match against Japan.
Their message was reinforced by German Interior Minister Nancy Feiser, who also wore the OneLove armband, which promotes tolerance, diversity and LGBTQ+ rights, as she sat next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
Germany is one of seven countries, including England and Wales, that have been banned by FIFA from wearing an armband and have been warned they will face sporting sanctions if they defy football’s governing body.
In a powerful statement released shortly after the start of the game, the German Football Association warned FIFA: “To deny us an armband is the same as denying us the right to vote. We stand our ground.”
It added: “We wanted to use our captaincy 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.”
Six of Germany’s starting lineup, including Ilkay Gundogan and Manuel Neuer, wore rainbow colored boots.
Fear of sporting sanctions – including captains receiving yellow cards at the start – has led seven nations to backtrack on their pledge to wear OneLove at their World Cup matches.
However, Danish Football Federation chief executive Jakob Jensen confirmed that these countries are currently exploring legal options to overturn FIFA’s decision, although he has ruled out going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport at this stage.
“Now we are exploring legal options, we are also coordinating our discussions on this issue, but at the moment we cannot contact Cus,” he said. “You can’t go through Cus right now, and I think it’s some kind of rumor circulating in the press.
He added: “The Germans are exploring legal options. It’s not at all like going through Casa. If you want to go through the Cas, you need to file a complaint with the FIFA system first, you need to go to the appeal body, and then you can go through the Cas
“As for the One Love headband, the German team, together with the German Football Federation and other countries, wanted to do this and take a stand.
“But now FIFA has threatened us mainly with sanctions. Associations that played on Monday [England and Wales], it was a very short notice. If you want to carry out such a campaign together, you must stick to your decisions.”
On Wednesday, FIFA said it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador over homophobic chants by their fans in the first World Cup match against Qatar.