German team protests ban on One Love armbands

The German national football team made a silent gesture of protest in Qatar on Wednesday before their World Cup match against Japan. The players covered their mouths in protest against Fifa's threats to impose sanctions on teams whose captain wear the One Love armband. Commentators react with scepticsm.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Even minimal gestures can be powerful

It's better than nothing, Corriere della Sera concludes regarding the German team's act of protest:

“Of course, it would have been more resounding and effective to challenge Fifa and Infantino directly by wearing the armband and risking a collective warning that could have jeopardised their progress in the tournament (would Fifa have the courage to expel the entire team?). ... But as minimalistic as the German team's gesture may be, it should not be underestimated. Especially because of the power of the image, a photo that symbolises condemnation, distancing and even mockery.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Audiences care more about the game

Der Tagesspiegel mocks the German team's gesture of protest:

“Well golly! Put simply for the dim-witted, the message is: Under the strict guidelines imposed by Fifa and Qatar, we are not allowed to say what we think. Really? That's shocking. Who would have thought it? ... But this interpretation is based on a misconception, because by covering their mouths, the players were actually sending a message to their audience at home. The fact is that beyond the morally charged region between Flensburg and Constance no one could care less about the German team's posturing. Far more interesting is the question of how they play. But who knows, perhaps the covered-mouth gesture was a preventive measure meant as an appeal not to discuss the game on top of everything else.”

Denik N (CZ) /

The West overestimates its clout

Deník N gives the political protests of European World Cup participants in Qatar a yellow card:

“The World Cup in Qatar has frequently been a source of indignant discussion, and rightly so. Western teams have come up with forms of protest. But it was Iran's players who used a truly serious, and possibly consequential, form of protest. The whole controversy shows that the West may be overestimating its influence on how people think in other countries, and its appeal to them.”

Weekendavisen (DK) /

Leave politics out of the World Cup

Fifa was right to ban the One Love armband, says Weekendavisen:

“Imagine if the Qatar captain wanted to express the official view on homosexuality in his home country and the rest of the region. If [Danish captain] Simon Kjær is allowed to wear his rainbow armband, it would be hypocritical to forbid the Qatar national team from expressing the opposite point of view. In this way, a very different battle could swiftly unfold on the pitch than the kind a referee can keep in check. ... Despite all the differences, a space must be maintained in which the world can come together. Otherwise, we will have to divide up tournaments according to whether we have the same values as our opponents.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Creative solutions needed

Denmark also abstained from using the One Love captain's armband in its first group match. Berlingske criticises the decision:

“It would have suited the DBU [Danish Football Association] and Danish players to show more consistency vis-à-vis Fifa's completely unreasonable decisions. For example, they could have had a substitute start the game against Tunisia wearing the 'forbidden' captain's armband, been given a yellow card and then replaced him with [captain] Simon Kjær wearing the official Fifa captain's armband. Or another symbolic marking could have been found. ... A single shirt or armband can wield important symbolic power.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

On the sidelines then

Protest will not be stifled by the ban, Le Quotidien predicts:

“The authorities have turned Qatar into a kingdom of the absurd with the complicity of Fifa, which turns a blind eye and gives lessons in open-mindedness as soon as the slightest criticism is raised. The resistance is getting organised, and some journalists went about their work wearing the famous multi-coloured piece of fabric on the sidelines. One German commentator wore a rainbow T-shirt throughout an entire match. And this kind of gesture will become more frequent in the course of the tournament.” (ES) /

The corrosive power of money

Criticism of the host country should not be limited to its persecution of homosexuals, urges:

“If some teams actually wear the rainbow armband it would certainly be an important gesture, but putting all the focus on this could end up reducing the issue to a single question. Qatar is much more than a country that persecutes homosexuals. ... It is the symbol of something more profound: of a way of life in which the money of a handful of despots breaks people's will, corrodes their conscience and ensures the complicity of those touched by their gracious hand.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

A clear case of the outrage mentality

It's not the job of athletes to save the world, the Tages-Anzeiger reminds readers:

“Footballers are now supposed to make statements that come neither from politics nor from business. And they're supposed to get entangled in a power struggle with Fifa and jeopardise their success at the World Cup while German Economics Minister Robert Habeck kowtows to the Qatari trade minister because Germany wants gas from Qatar to be able to uncouple from Russia. ... Once again, one thing is particularly noticeable these days: the outrage mentality when it comes to football. Nowhere is it more manifest than in the biggest sport of all, nowhere is it easier to point the finger at others and indulge in pure populism.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Iranian team shows real courage

The stakes are much higher for the Iranian team, which refrained from singing the national anthem before its match against England, The Guardian stresses:

“The players risked not fines, not a booking, but retribution from a vindictive state. In doing so, they joined other courageous athletes and stars, as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women who have taken to the streets in 155 cities.”

Pravda (SK) /

A characterless own goal

Fifa and Qatar are doing neither the world nor themselves any favours with this ban, Pravda argues:

“Fifa officials like to talk about diversity and tolerance. But when it comes to the crunch they don't stand up for the values they propagate. ... Can money really buy everything these days? Let the Qataris feed their big Champions League clubs with petrodollars, but don't spoil the biggest football event. By banning the captain's armbands Qatar and Fifa are undermining their own cause. Now there will be even more discussion about the reactionary organisers and the characterless Fifa.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

No team spirit

The participating teams shouldn't just put up with everything, The Irish Times stresses:

“Had England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland all refused to comply, Fifa would have opened itself up to more ridicule by instructing referees to book the players involved. Actions count on the world stage - as seen when the Iranian team refused to sing their national anthem in apparent protest at the recent repressive actions of that country's regime.”

Libération (FR) /

Violating sacrosanct rules

This is an undignified act of ingratiation vis-à-vis the host country, Libération fumes:

“By threatening with the yellow card, the highest authority in world football is violating the holy of holies: the space of the game. This has always been protected, and belongs only to the 22 players and their referees. ... In threatening players with a warning for making social statements, Fifa is doing exactly what it claims it wants to prevent: inviting politics onto the pitch. ... You can look for a long time in the football rule book: the colour of the captain's armband is not prescribed in any of the 17 rules of the game. Clearly, then, this is more about pleasing the host, Qatar. It would be better to say that openly.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Hypocritical indignation

De Morgen can't take all the fuss over the ban seriously:

“If the participating countries and their famous athletes genuinely cared about the fate of slave guest workers or gays in Qatar, or about corruption in their own midst, they had twelve years to get Fifa to change its mind. Or do you think this World Cup would have gone ahead if Germany, the Netherlands and Spain had jointly said they wouldn't attend? ... That didn't happen. And actually you can't even blame the athletes for that. Because when they return home afterwards, it'll be the people in their governments who take their place in the hotels and salons of Doha, begging for more gas.”