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Germany football players covering their mouths on the pitch
Germany’s players cover their mouths ahead of the match against Japan © Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Germany’s footballers covered their mouths for their team photo ahead of their World Cup game against Japan, in what appeared to be a protest against Fifa’s decision to ban the wearing of “One Love” armbands as a symbol of diversity.

The German government also expressed disappointment at Fifa’s decision, saying the rights of the LGBT+ community were “non-negotiable”.

Ahead of the game, each of the 11 German players was photographed covering their mouths with their right hand.

The captains of seven European countries’ teams had said they would wear the rainbow-themed armbands in their matches in Qatar, a country where homosexuality is illegal.

But Fifa, football’s global governing body, warned the seven European federations, including Germany, that players would receive yellow cards for wearing unapproved armbands. The idea was then dropped.

Bernd Neuendorf, president of the German soccer federation, called the warning “another low blow” from Fifa.

Nancy Faeser, the German interior minister who is also responsible for sports, wore a “One Love” armband while watching the match from the stands. Faeser tweeted a photo of herself wearing the armband with the hashtag #OneLove.

Steffen Hebestreit, the German government spokesperson, said football should be free to “choose its own, autonomous means and stand up for values like tolerance and diversity”.

“For a government that is committed to fighting hostility towards the queer community and standing up for acceptance and the protection of sexual diversity, the rights of LGBTIQ people are non-negotiable,” he said.

Germany went on to lose the game 2-1, a shock result against a team ranked 13 places lower in the Fifa rankings.

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