Germany faced disciplinary action from FIFA after its players covered their mouths during a team photo at the World Cup in a OneLove armband protest.
The move marked another day of tension between the seven European nations that backed the OneLove campaign and FIFA, with the group – which also includes the English and Welsh associations – exploring their own legal options in the matter.
The Football Association declined to comment on whether the England team would copy Germany’s gesture ahead of Friday’s match against the United States.
Speaking of ‘covered mouths’ gesture after the 2-1 defeat against Japan, Germany coach Hansi Flick said: “It was a signal, a message we wanted to send. We wanted to convey the message that FIFA is silencing us.”
Flick was referring to the fact that the OneLove group would be threatened by FIFA with sporting sanctions – starting with issuing yellow cards to their captains – if the rainbow armbands were worn.
The OneLove campaign began in September and will run for a year, but was to be particularly significant during the World Cup in Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.
The PA news agency learns that the group’s lawyers are looking into regulations to look into the penalties the associations have been threatened with. Danish FA chief executive Jakob Jensen confirmed legal options were being explored, but said the group could not immediately go to the sports arbitration tribunal.
The German gesture could prompt disciplinary action by FIFA under Article 11 of its disciplinary code. He specifies that anyone “using a sporting event for non-sporting events” can be sanctioned. FIFA has not yet commented on what the German team did.
A tweet from the German federation reads: “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to defend the values we have in the German national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.
“It was not about making a political statement: human rights are not negotiable. This should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the band is equivalent to denying us a voice. We stand our ground.”
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However, there is the risk that the German gesture is isolated.
Switzerland are also part of the OneLove group, but their captain Granit Xhaka has indicated his side will not stage a similar protest before Thursday’s opening match 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 have to discuss it anymore. Now we have to focus on football and that’s the only thing I’ll do.”
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was asked about the armbands controversy on Wednesday and said: “As a team we have all had conversations and we all support that. We all wanted Harry to wear it, but I think the decision got out of hand as a team and as players. He’s gone higher than that really.
Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen said on Tuesday that he believed players were afraid to speak up in Qatar and were being monitored. The Red Devils, who are also part of the OneLove group, kick off their World Cup campaign on Wednesday night against Canada.
Germany’s gesture on the pitch was reinforced in the stands of Khalifa Stadium by Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wearing a OneLove armband in the VIP box.
Seated to his right was FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who on the eve of the tournament launched a stunning attack on the “hypocrisy” of European nations for their human rights criticisms of Qatar.
Discontent with FIFA is growing in the group, with the German federation saying shortly before the tournament it will not support Infantino’s re-election, which is expected to go unopposed in next year’s vote, while the Danish federation has taken the same stance.
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