Germany coach Hansi Flick refused to hide his dissatisfaction with FIFA’s decision to prohibit teams from wearing the OneLove armband during the World Cup.
The OneLove campaign, which promotes “inclusion and sends a message against any kind of discrimination,” gained traction ahead of the tournament in Qatar, owing in part to the host country’s criminalization of homosexuality and poor human rights record.
Germany was one of seven European countries that supported the initiative, which involved captains wearing special armbands with a multicolored heart.
The move was called off on Monday after it was revealed that FIFA was planning to impose “sporting sanctions” on the teams involved, with captains expected to be booked at kickoff for wearing the armband.
While FIFA has been chastised for ostensibly opposing an anti-discrimination gesture, teams have also been chastised for failing to proceed despite sanction threats.
Although Flick did not address the teams’ criticism, he did express regret over FIFA’s decision.
“About the armband, we wanted to do this to take a stand with the DFB [German Football Association] and the other countries, and then what happened was FIFA threatened us with sanctions, and the associations were told [on Monday] at short notice,” Flick told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s Group E opener against Japan.
“If you want to run a group campaign, you should stick to decisions.”
“Of course, it was a surprise for the team not to do it; it was a symbol of human rights and diversity.” And how I treat my team, the values I and the team represent, well, it’s all based on mutual respect and appreciation, which is just a part of life. That is something I expect from everyone.
“There are some parties involved who hold opposing views. We wanted to be an example of our values.”
“We talked about it, a yellow card can happen,” Flick said of the possibility of an instant yellow card. We have options if [Joshua] Kimmich is forced to leave the pitch. However, it was unclear, and the mere threat of sanctions was difficult for us, especially because the decision was communicated so close to the England and Netherlands games.
“Because we didn’t have time to react, the federations decided to take responsibility off the shoulders of the players, which is why the situation is as it is now.”
“I’m sorry we can’t be here and take a stand for human rights.”
Midfielder Kimmich largely echoed his coach’s reaction, expressing surprise at Monday’s announcement.
He also questioned how much players should be expected to use their platforms to fight for social causes, pointing out that they are in Qatar to play football, not to fight for social causes.
“Eventually, the DFB made a decision that was supported by everyone: England and all the other teams,” Kimmich explained.
“In general, I was surprised because I felt people were criticizing the armband when we discussed it a few weeks ago.” Many people thought it was a fig leaf, but I think it was a brave stance to take.
“Both the players and the DFB addressed the issues and problems.” We ran a human rights campaign, and in Nepal, we’ll be collecting donations to help people. I think we’re good at pointing out things that aren’t going well around the world, but now we’re focusing on football.
“When Qatar was awarded the World Cup 12 years ago, I was 15 years old; now I have to keep making statements.”
“We’re all acutely aware. We have had numerous opportunities to point out errors and issues in the world, but we must also be honest: here, we don’t learn enough about what’s going on in the world because we are too busy training and playing games. You [the media] have the opportunity to investigate.
“I believe it is important for us as players to use our platforms to point out wrongdoing, but we must also focus on the game regardless of where the World Cup is held.”
“It’s the toughest competition for footballers out there.” It’s every boy’s dream to be a part of it. Many people tried to convince us that we shouldn’t be looking forward to it; many people at home aren’t excited, but I should be able to look forward even if it’s already here.”