Germany’s players have been accused of hypocrisy after its protest against FIFA’s armband ban, with some fans citing the country’s treatment of World Cup winner Mesut Ozil.
Ozil, who was born in Germany to Turkish immigrants, starred at the international level for Germany, making 92 appearances between 2009 and 2018, including in the 2010 and 2014 World Cup campaigns.
However, the playmaker’s time with the international team came to a bitter end following Germany’s shock exit at the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, when he announced his international retirement citing « racism and disrespect ».
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Ozil took aim at then-German football president Reinhard Grindel in a lengthy statement announcing his retirement in 2018.
« People with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has players from dual‑heritage families, » the player wrote.
« Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent. In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose. »
Ozil’s sour exit was at the front of mind for a number of fans on social media as Germany was widely praised for taking a stand against FIFA’s armband clampdown, in what the team said was « not a political message ».
The Germany team lined up in the traditional formation before Wednesday’s game against Japan and each of the 11 players covered their mouth with their right hand.
“It was a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is muzzling us,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said after his team’s 2-1 loss to Japan.
The gesture was a response to FIFA’s warning to the seven European federations, including Germany’s, that players would be penalised if they wore colourful “One Love” armbands as a symbol for inclusion and diversity. Germany captain Manuel Neuer and the other six team captains had planned to wear the armbands for their opening games at the World Cup.
German football federation DFB tweeted a statement on its position during the game.
“With our captain’s armband, we wanted to send a signal for values that we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect. Being loud together with other nations.
« It’s not a political message: human rights are nonnegotiable. That should be obvious. Unfortunately it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us,” the federation said. « Denying us the armband is like muzzling us. Our stance stands. »
Qatar has been under scrutiny for its human rights record and laws criminalising homosexuality.
Football’s governing body issued its warning just hours before England and the Netherlands were set to play with their captains wearing the heart-shaped, multicoloured logo of the “One Love” campaign. FIFA said the players would immediately be shown a yellow card and could face further consequences.
Germany coach Hansi Flick and football federation president Bernd Neuendorf were among those to criticise FIFA’s decision.
Neuendorf called the warning “another low blow” from FIFA. The governing body hasn’t commented on the gesture by the Germans.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who is also responsible for sports, wore a “One Love” armband in the stands at the Germany-Japan game, where she was sitting beside FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Faeser tweeted a photo of herself wearing it with the hashtag #OneLove.
News agency DPA reported Faeser had the armband on under a pink blazer that she took off during the first half.
Earlier, Faeser criticised Qatar for forcing a German fan to remove a rainbow-coloured armband and headband at another game.
“This is not in line with my understanding of the security guarantees that I was given by the (Qatari) interior minister,” Faeser said. “Security must apply to all people. I’m very disappointed about this.”
The rainbow flag is a widely used as a symbol of tolerance with regard to sexual diversity.
Faeser said in her opinion “such symbols should be openly shown.”
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