Germany’s World Cup campaign did not start off in a manner that millions would have hoped after Hansi Flick’s Die Mannschaft fell in a surprise 2-1 loss to Japan, but the shock result was not the only way that the European giant made headlines today.
Before kick-off against Samurai Blue at Khalifa International Stadium, German players all covered their mouths during their team photo as a sign of protest in the wake of Manuel Neuer being unable to wear a special armband focusing on supporting human rights.
In a tweet from its official Twitter account, the DFB explained its decision, stating “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. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
Though some felt the need to target the national team in response to their message after their loss, the stance was largely well received across social media but also highlights an even more important aspect of German football culture that ESPN lead Bundesliga commentator and German football expert Derek Rae recently brought to light on Twitter.
“Have been explaining to colleagues that in Germany anyway, this is not your normal World Cup. Huge concentration on the armband issue at the media conference earlier plus the Rewe story & TV figures well down on past World Cups so far.”
“When I left Köln a few weeks ago, there was not the usual buzz & many friends/pubs are boycotting it. I tweet this as always to help wider understanding of how Germany ticks. Rewe’s decision earlier while widely applauded, is also about being in tune with public sentiment.”
German retailer Rewe, perhaps best known to some football fans as a major shirt sponsor for Bundesliga outfit 1. FC Köln, has also been one of many sponsorship sources for the DFB but recently ended its relationship with the national team in refusal to be associated with FIFA after the governing body’s decision regarding the #OneLove armband.
In a statement cited by the New York Times, Rewe CEO Lionel Souque held firm in its stance regarding diversity; “We stand for diversity — and football is diversity too. FIFA’s scandalous attitude is absolutely unacceptable for me as the C.E.O. of a diverse company and as a football fan.”
A football culture known for fan support that comes with a loud voice regarding a myriad of social issues, the manner that Germany has tackled cleverly speaking out in protest over contentious issues on football’s world stage remains commendable; and not seen enough.