Germany’s players took the OneLove bracelet protest to a new level when their players covered their mouths during a team photo at the World Cup but are expecting no disciplinary action from Fifa, sources say.
The move marked another day of tensions between the seven European nations backing the OneLove campaign and Fifa, with the Football Association examining its legal options on the matter alongside its Danish and German counterparts.
The FA declined to comment on whether the England side would copy the German gesture ahead of their game against the United States on Friday.
National coach Hansi Flick said of the “covered mouth” gesture after his team’s 2-1 defeat against Japan: “It was a sign, a message that we wanted to send out. We wanted to get the message across that Fifa is silencing us.”
Flick was referring to the fact that those nations that wanted to wear the OneLove armband were threatened by FIFA with sporting sanctions – starting with issuing yellow cards to their captains – if the rainbow colored armbands were worn.
The OneLove campaign launched in September and will run for a year but should be of particular importance during the World Cup in Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are criminalized.
The PA news agency understands lawyers for the group are reviewing the regulations to examine the sanctions the associations have been threatened with. The Danish FA’s chief executive, Jakob Jensen, confirmed legal options were being explored but said the group could not go immediately to the Arbitration Court for Sport.
The German gesture could have resulted in disciplinary action by FIFA under Article 11 of its Disciplinary Code. It states that anyone “who uses a sporting event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature” can be sanctioned.
Fifa is yet to comment on what the German team has done, but it is understood there will be no formal disciplinary action from the governing body.
A tweet from the German association said: “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. Along with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.
“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.”
However, there is a risk that the German gesture is an isolated one.
Switzerland are also part of the OneLove group but their captain Granit Xhaka indicated his side would not stage 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. We have to focus on football now and that’s the only thing I’ll do.”
Asked about the armband controversy on Wednesday, England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford said: “As a squad, we’ve all had the talks and we all stand by it. We all wanted Harry to wear it, but I think the decision was taken out of our hands as a team and as players. It really went higher than that.”
Belgium 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, started their World Cup campaign against Canada on Wednesday night but made no gesture before kick-off.
The Football Association of Wales did not comment when asked if it would explore legal options on the matter.
Germany’s on-pitch gesture was reinforced in the stands of Khalifa Stadium by Home Secretary Nancy Faeser, who wore a OneLove armband in the VIP box.
To her right sat FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who on the eve of the tournament launched an extraordinary attack on the “hypocrisy” of European nations over their criticism of Qatar on human rights issues.
Dissatisfaction in the group towards FIFA is growing as the German FA said just before the tournament it would not support the re-election of Infantino, who is said to be unopposed in next year’s vote, while the Danish FA takes the same stance.