It was a moment so brief that the thousands of fans at Khalifa International Stadium on Wednesday could easily have missed it.
But a moment, the time it took the photographers to get a shot for Germany’s World Cup team, was all it took for the four-time winners to send a message to the football world’s governing body.
Germany’s starting 11 all posed with their right hands over their mouths, and within minutes the image was widely circulating on social media.
And as Germany kicked off their World Cup campaign against Japan in Group E, the team’s social media feed confirmed the gesture was intended as a protest against FIFA’s decision to ban the “OneLove” bracelet that many European captains hoped for. to wear in Qatar. .
It was a game that delivered another World Cup shock as Japan came from behind to win 2-1.
Prior to the tournament, captains from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark planned to wear the bracelets at the World Cup – with a striped heart in different colors to represent all origins, backgrounds, genders and sexual preferences. represent. identities – before FIFA made it clear on Monday that players would receive a yellow card.
On Wednesday, the German Football Association (DFB) released a series of tweets shortly after the match started, indicating that FIFA had prevented them from using their voices to speak out at the World Cup on issues they were passionate about, hence the protest.
“We wanted to use our captaincy to stand up for values that we have in the German national team: diversity and mutual respect,” said the DFB. “Together with other countries, we wanted our voice to be heard.
“It was not about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable. That should go without saying, but it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us.
“Denying us the bracelet is the same as denying us a vote,” the DFB added. “We stand by our position.”
CNN has contacted FIFA for comment.
Prior to countries announcing that their captains would not wear the armband in Qatar, FIFA had put forward its own “No Discrimination” campaign, saying all 32 captains would have the option of wearing a armband linked to the campaign .
German fan Nick Boettcher told CNN it was “sad” that FIFA had taken the position of denying players the ability to wear the armband.
“FIFA makes a lot of dubious decisions and that’s why it’s good that people speak up,” said Boettcher. “I am very proud that they did. People will definitely talk about this and attention will grow. The pressure on FIFA and Qatar is definitely increasing.”
England fan Samir Cordell told CNN at that stadium that he was “over the moon” with the protest.
“Germany and the German fans should be proud,” he said. “I’m an England fan and I didn’t like seeing England not wear the armband. I would have loved to see Harry Kane wear it and get the booking. I love it, I think it’s fantastic. Hats off to they.”
A handful of Germany’s 11 starting line-ups, including Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and İlkay Gündoğan, wore rainbow flags on their boots.
Germany’s protest comes after both Kane and Gareth Bale of Wales took the field in their respective matches on Monday without the “OneLove” rainbow armband. German captain Manuel Neuer also did not wear the bracelet on Wednesday.
Although Neuer opted not to wear the armband, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser was seen wearing the armband on her arm while attending the team’s game against Japan.
In a tweet, Faeser posted a photo of herself with the armband sitting in the stands in what appeared to be a show of solidarity with the national team.
Before the match, Faeser had criticized FIFA, decrying the threat of sanctions for wearing the armband.
“This is not okay, how unions are put under pressure,” she said while visiting a German FA event, according to Reuters.
“In the current times it is incomprehensible that FIFA does not want people to openly stand up for tolerance and against discrimination. It doesn’t fit our time and it doesn’t suit people.”
In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatar — where sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison in the country — has come under fire for its stance on LGBTQ rights.
A Human Rights Watch report released last month documented cases in September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to “maltreatment in detention.”
However, the country has insisted that “everyone is welcome” to the tournament, adding in a statement to CNN this month that “our track record has shown that we have warmly welcomed all people, regardless of their background.”
And since the tournament began, some people attending World Cup matches in Qatar have said they’ve had difficulty entering stadiums wearing clothing in support of LGBTQ rights.
At Ahmad Bin Ali stadium on Monday, ahead of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) game against Wales, US soccer journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister said they had been told to wear rainbow colored garments. to be removed by security personnel.