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German players cover their mouths during a team photo to protest FIFA’s OneLove bracelet ban

German players covered their mouths ahead of their World Cup match against Japan at a stadium in Qatar today to protest FIFA’s decision to ban an LGBTQ armband.

Their defiance demonstration at Doha’s Khalifa Stadium came after world football’s governing body threatened sanctions against teams and their captains if they went ahead with their plan to wear the “OneLove” armband – in what had been seen as a symbolic protest against laws in Doha Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

All of the German players joined in the gesture in front of dozens of photographers on the pitch ahead of their Group E game. After the protest, the German Football Association (DFB) released a statement strongly supporting his team, saying: “Baning the armband is like banning our right to speak.”

Meanwhile, Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Fraser wore the banned armband from the stands. She had it hidden under a pink blazer, which she took off at the start of the game – revealing the band and their heart-shaped logo.

Fraser later sat next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino and proudly displayed her armband. They seemed to share a frosty exchange.

“With our captain’s armband, we wanted to set an example for the values ​​that we represent in the German national team: diversity and mutual respect,” said the DFB on Twitter. “Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.”

In a second tweet, the DFB said: “[The gesture] It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable. That should go without saying, but it isn’t yet. That is why this message is so important to us. Denying us an armband is like denying us a vote. We stand by our position.”

FIFA had threatened seven European teams with sanctions if they wore the armband, which symbolizes diversity and tolerance.

England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark said on Monday they had been pressured by FIFA to abandon plans to wear the symbol in the conservative Muslim country.

It was originally reported that the sanction would take the form of a yellow card for the player wearing the armband, but later reports suggested that FIFA had threatened further penalties for players and teams should they choose not to wear the armband decide.

Ahead of the game, Fraser said FIFA’s ban was a “huge mistake”.

Not only players but also fans should be allowed to “openly” display pro-LGBTQ symbols, she told reporters in Qatar.

World Cup security has ordered spectators to remove rainbow logo clothing.

However, supporters should “make a decision” about wearing the symbols, Faeser said.

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

“The rights of LGBTQ people are non-negotiable,” Hebestreit said at a regular press conference, using similar language to the DFB statement later released on Twitter.

The German Football Association announced yesterday that it is considering taking legal action against FIFA to have the ban lifted. The armbands were seen as a symbolic protest against laws in host country Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

DFB media director Steffen Simon told Deutschlandfunk that England, who were the first team in the game against Iran on Monday, had been threatened with several sporting sanctions.

England were hours before kick-off in their opening game against Iran when the seven nations issued a joint statement declaring plans to wear the rainbow-hued armband would be abandoned.

The wearing of the ribbon is part of a year-long campaign that began in September but was meant to be of particular importance in Qatar.

“The tournament director went to the England team and spoke about several breaches of the rules and threatened massive sporting sanctions without specifying them,” he said.

Simon, who did not specify whether he was referring to local organizers or FIFA in his reference to the tournament director, said the other six nations then decided to “show solidarity” and not wear it.

“We lost the armband and it’s very painful, but we are the same people as before with the same values. We are not scammers who claim they have values ​​and then betray them,” he said.

“We were in an extreme situation, under extreme blackmail, and we felt we had to make that decision without wanting to.”

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