German players pose for World Cup photo covering their mouths to protest FIFA’s ban on LGBTQ armbands

Germany’s shocking World Cup loss to Japan on Wednesday will probably be remembered as one of the biggest upsets of the tournament — but LGBTQ soccer fans won’t likely forget what happened before the match.

Before the German team’s disappointing debut at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, all 11 players posed for a group photo while covering their mouths — a not-so-subtle protest against FIFA’s ongoing efforts to stop nations from showing their support for LGBTQ people who are still persecuted in several nations across the globe, including Qatar.

Consensual same-sex relations are illegal in the small Arab nation. Earlier this month, Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman said homosexuality is “damage in the mind” and forbidden by Islamic law.

Germany was one of seven European nations to announce that their team captain would wear an armband to show their support for LGBTQ equality, but FIFA squashed that idea, announcing earlier this week that the gesture would be punished with a yellow card.

After the match, German coach Hansi Flick told reporters that the gesture was “a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is muzzling us.”

“We may have our bands taken away from us, but we’ll never let our voices be taken from us,” the team’s captain, Manuel Neuer, said. “We stand for human rights. That’s what we wanted to show. We may have been silenced by FIFA regarding the captain’s armbands, but we always stand for our values.”

The German soccer federation later tweeted that “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.”

In a subsequent tweet, the organization said the photo “wasn’t about making a political statement — human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, 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,” the tweet added.

With News Wire Services