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Germany’s opposition to FIFA’s ban on rainbow flags during soccer matches

Germany’s players used the World Cup as a platform to express themselves as photographers waited up outside Khalifa International Stadium to snap the obligatory team portrait.

Germany’s players silently protested FIFA, the worldwide governing body of soccer, for banning their captain from wearing a multicoloured armband in the match as part of a social justice campaign by raising their right hands to their lips and holding them there until the final photo had been taken.

The goal of the campaign was to bring attention to the plight of disadvantaged communities in Qatar, where gay behaviour is illegal. Teams informed FIFA of their intentions in September, but didn’t hear back until Monday, just hours before England (the first team to commit to take a stance) kicked off their campaign. Team leaders were given yellow cards instead of financial penalties for breaking FIFA’s stringent uniform standards, the teams stated.

Banners denouncing the small Gulf emirate and FIFA have been a common sight at league games in Germany this season, and German clubs and fans have been among the most vocal on human rights issues in Qatar. Politicians in the nation have also irritated Qatar with their vocal criticism in the lead-up to the World Cup.

On Wednesday, that anger was probably amplified. Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser delivered her own speech from the VIP section of the stadium before the players took to the field to protest. She changed out of her pink outfit and into a rainbow “One Love” armband that Germany’s captain, Manuel Neuer, and the other players were planning to wear before the game. She sat down next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Because Faeser is not a member of the German team, he is immune to yellow cards.

The controversy over the armband verdict has overshadowed the tournament so far. Daily conflicts regarding FIFA’s ban on insignia supporting the L.G.B.T.Q. community have distracted from the organization’s efforts to refocus emphasis to the pitch. Extremely strict security measures have caused confusion for some spectators, like as the time a supporter was denied entry to a stadium for carrying the flag of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.

According to reports, German authorities are researching their legal options in preparation for filing a complaint with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Jakob Jensen, the head of the Danish soccer federation, said that his organisation would not be endorsing Gianni Infantino for reelection in March and that quitting FIFA was an option. The only person who could win is the current president.

In the time since FIFA declared a compromise with the teams, the organisation has said nothing, fueling questions over whether FIFA or Qatari authorities are dictating rules for conduct within the stadium. Despite FIFA’s crackdown on Iranian fans wearing T-shirts or carrying banners denouncing their government the day before, tricolour flags, such as those reading “Free Palestine,” were seen in the Tunisia section during Tuesday’s game against Denmark.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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