'Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice' – Germany protest FIFA's OneLove ban at World Cup opener

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Germany's players protested FIFA's decision to ban Manuel Neuer from wearing the OneLove armband by covering their mouths ahead of their World Cup opener, as the team declared: "Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice."

Germany were among several European sides to commit to wearing the armband in order to promote an anti-discriminatory message in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

However, the teams backed down ahead of their opening World Cup fixtures after being threatened with sporting sanctions by FIFA, which German Football Association (DFB) president Bernd Neuendorf suggested were more significant than a yellow card for the affected captains.

After taking to the pitch for their Group E meeting with Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium, Germany's players covered their mouths for the traditional pre-match photo to protest FIFA's handling of the row.

The team subsequently released a statement via social media, which read: "We wanted to use our captain's armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect.

"Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.

"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."

Germany captain Neuer was seen to have his armband checked by referee Ivan Barton Cisneros ahead of Wednesday's game.

Die Mannschaft also warmed up for the match wearing training shirts featuring rainbow-coloured trim in another apparent show of support for LGBTQ+ rights.