Germany’s players placed hands over their mouths and wore rainbow stripes on their warm-up tops and boots in a powerful statement of defiance against Fifa before their Group E match against Japan.
Their message was reinforced by the German interior minister, Nancy Faeser, who also wore a OneLove armband, which promotes tolerance, diversity and LGBTQ+ rights, as she sat next to Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino.
Germany are one of seven nations, including England and Wales, who were banned by Fifa from wearing the armband on Sunday – and warned they would face sporting sanctions if they defied football’s governing body.
In a powerful statement published shortly after the game started, the German Football Association warned Fifa: “Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
It added: “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.
“It 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.”
Six of Germany’s starting XI, including Ilkay Gündogan and Manuel Neuer, had rainbow colours on their boots.
The fear of sporting sanctions – including captains receiving a yellow card at kickoff – had led the seven nations to backtrack from their promise to wear the OneLove in their World Cup matches.
However Danish football federation chief executive, Jakob Jensen, confirmed that those nations were now exploring legal options to overturn Fifa’s decision – although he ruled out going to the court of arbitration for sport at this stage.
“Now we’re looking into what are the legal options, we are co-ordinating our discussions on that as well, but at this point it is not possible to go to Cas,” he said. “You can’t go through Cas now and I think this is some rumour running around the press.
He added: “The Germans are looking into the legal possibilities. It’s very different than going through Cas. If you want to go through Cas you need to complain within the Fifa system first, you need to go to the appeals body, then you can go through Cas
“About the One Love armband, together with the German FA and other countries, the German team wanted to do this and to take a stand.
“But now Fifa have threatened us basically with sanctions. The associations that played on Monday [England and Wales], it was very short notice. If you want to run a campaign like this together, you should stick to your decisions.”
On Wednesday Fifa said it has opened disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador over homophobic chanting by their fans in their World Cup opener against Qatar.