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German team covers mouths in protest of FIFA OneLove decision at World Cup

The 2022 World Cup is mired in controversy and it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon.

Manuel Neuer of Germany reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

The 2022 World Cup has already featured considerably controversy around Qatar’s poor human rights record and laws and stance against LGBTQ+ rights. FIFA scuttled plans for European teams to wear a OneLove armband in protest of Qatar’s record on LGBTQ+ rights, but it has led to further protest.

On Wednesday, the German team took their official photo ahead of their opening match against Japan. Each member of the team placed their hand over their mouth to indicate they were being silenced by FIFA.

The captains of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland were going to wear OneLove armbands, but FIFA said that any player who did so would receive a yellow card as a form of discipline. The association of teams acknowledged a willingness to pay fines, but would not go further.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” the soccer associations said in a joint statement.

Germany’s protest is the furthest this group has gone in opposition to FIFA’s threats. This comes also as Germany’s soccer federation is investigating whether or not it’s even legal for FIFA to threaten sanctions for the armbands.

It’s safe to say FIFA won’t take kindly to this. This is an organization that told Belgium they could not include the word “Love” on the label of their team jerseys. FIFA is an organization built to make money and push back on anything that might otherwise threaten that. And yet, sports is inherently political. It’s never not been political, and to think it can be made otherwise is at best a naive approach to the world. For now, we wait and see if there will be any further protests at a World Cup that is already mired in controversy.