Germany team photo at World Cup 2022: why Germany’s players covered their mouths in pre Japan match picture

Fifa announced sanctions would be imposed on those wearing One Love armbands in Qatar. Germany responded by covering their mouths in team photo

Hansi Flick’s Germany covered their mouths while they posed for the pre-match team photo ahead of their Qatar World Cup opener against Japan in protest against Fifa. Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and other world class stars used the gesture to show they “would not be silenced” following Fifa’s ban on wearing the One Love armband - a sign of promoting diversity and inclusion at the tournament.

It had been expected that several national sides competing at the World Cup would have their captains wearing the One Love armband in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community as the World Cup is being held in a country where same-sex relationships and the promotion of such are illegal.

However, Fifa then informed the relevant Football Associations earlier this week that they would impose sanctions on players who were wearing the armband, such as the player being booked before even entering the field of play. The English FA have replied saying that while they were happy to pay fines for wearing the armband, they would not put their players at risk of being booked, meanwhile the German FA have now announced they are exploring legal action.

What has been said in Germany?

The DFB media director, Steffen Simon, announced that: “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversiy and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard. Fifa has forbidden us from using a symbol of diversity and human rights. They combined this with massive threats of sporting sanctions without specifying them. The DFB is checking whether this action by Fifa was legal.”

Neuer has his armband checked by assistant referee

Why did Germany cover their mouths in team line up?

Ahead of their opening fixture against Japan, in which they lost 2-1, each member of Die Mannschaft held their hand over their mouths in a symbolic gesture as they felt they had been denied a voice. Posting on their official Twitter page, they stated: “It wasn’t about making a political statement - human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granteed, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us.

“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

Why have Rewe dropped Germany team sponsorship?

The German supermarket chain Rewe has dropped its advertising campaign with the German Football Association following Fifa’s prohibition of the ‘One Love’ armbands. The supermarket stated: “We stand up for diversity - and football is also diversity. We love this position and we defend it. Fifa’s scandalous attitude is absolutely unacceptable.”

The Scottish commentator Derek Rae has also been discussing the apparent lack of interest in the tournament from his German colleagues and Rewe’s decision. Taking to Twitter, Rae said: “Have been explaining to colleagues that in Germany anyway, this is not your normal World Cup. Huge concentration on the armband issue at the media conference earlier plus the Rewe story and TV figures well down on past World Cups so far.

“When I left Koln a few weeks ago, there was not the usual buzz and many friends/pubs boycotting it. I tweet this as always to help wider understanding of how Germany ticks. Rewe’s decision earlier while widely applauded, is also about being in tune with public sentiment.”