German footballers cover mouths and wear rainbows on kit in Qatar World Cup protest

German football team members pose with their hands covering their mouths as they line up for the team photo ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar match between Germany and Japan

The German national football team posed wearing kit with rainbow stripes and their hands over their mouths in protest of pro-LGBTQ+ OneLove armbands being penalised during the World Cup in Qatar.

The players made a stand in a team photo ahead of their match against Japan, after teams were threatened with yellow cards if they wore the rainbow armband.

Teams across Europe, including England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, had been due to wear the rainbow-coloured band to support LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar, where it is illegal to be gay.

The German team wrote in a statement on Twitter: “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect.

“Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.

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

The team added that the protest “wasn’t about making a political statement” as “human rights are non-negotiable”.

The protest wasn’t celebrated by everyone, however, as a prominent Qatari journalist suggested their loss to Japan was linked, saying: “This is what happens when you don’t focus on football.”

The German Football Association (DFB) previously claimed that FIFA “blackmailed” the participating football teams into dropping the OneLove armbands during the World Cup.

Steffen Simon, DFB’s media director, told Deutschlandfunk radio following England’s match against Iran on Monday (21 November): “The tournament director went to the English team and talked about multiple rule violations and threatened with massive sporting sanctions without specifying what these would be.”

Simon added that the other football associations who pledged to wear the OneLove armband decided to show “solidarity” with the England team, but said the decision was “painful”.

“We lost the armband and it is very painful but we are the same people as before with the same values,” he said.

“We are not imposters who claim they have values and then betray them. We were in an extreme situation, in an extreme blackmail and we thought we had to take that decision without wanting to do so.”

The DFB has stated that it is planning to take legal action against FIFA over the LGBTQ+ armband ban.