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Germany players cover mouths in protest for World Cup photo

Germany's players covered their mouths for the team photo before their World Cup opener against Japan on Wednesday in protest at FIFA's refusal to allow rainbow-themed armbands.

Manuel Neuer
German team captain Manuel Neuer wearing a One Love armband on November 16th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

Captains of seven European teams had planned to wear the anti-discrimination armbands during the tournament in Qatar as part of a campaign for diversity.

But they backed down over the threat of disciplinary action from football’s governing body, including yellow cards.

The rainbow armbands had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Germany’s football federation tweeted in English moments after the photo protest: “It wasn’t about making a political statement — human rights are non-negotiable.

“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser did wear the “OneLove” armband as she watched the game sitting next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

She said FIFA’s ban was a “huge mistake”.

READ ALSO: German sports minister to attend World Cup amid human rights row

Not only players, but fans should also be allowed to show pro-LGBTQ symbols “openly”, Faeser told reporters in Qatar.

Supporters should “make a decision for themselves” about whether they wanted to wear the symbols, Faeser added.

The German government spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, said earlier in the day in Berlin that FIFA’s decision to bar captains from wearing the “OneLove” armbands was “very unfortunate”.

“The rights of LGBTQ people are non-negotiable,” Hebestreit said at a regular press conference.

Security staff at the World Cup have ordered spectators to remove items of clothing featuring rainbow logos.

Underlining tensions at the tournament over the issue, Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen said on Tuesday that he was “afraid” to talk about human rights. Vertonghen, speaking on the eve of Belgium’s opening game against Canada later Wednesday, said he did not feel comfortable.

“I’m afraid if I say something about this I might not be able to play tomorrow,” the defender said.

“It’s an experience I’ve never felt in football before. I feel controlled. I’m afraid to even say something about this.

“We’re just saying normal things about racism and discrimination and if you can’t even say things about it, that says it all.

“I want to appear on the pitch tomorrow, so I’ll leave it at that.”

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CITIZENSHIP

German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

Politicians will gather in the Bundestag on Thursday afternoon for an urgent session on Germany's planned changes to citizenship law.

German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

According to information on the Bundestag website, the urgent discussion was scheduled on the request of the opposition CDU party, who have been fiercely critical of the planned reforms in recent days.

The debate, which is scheduled to start at 2:50pm and last an hour, will see MPs air their views on the government’s planned changes to citizenship law.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) is currently in the process of drafting a bill that will simplify and speed up the naturalisation process in Germany, which she said this week is “as good as done”.  

The law will end a ban on dual nationality for non-EU citizens, meaning people from places like India, the USA and the UK can naturalise as Germans without losing their current citizenship – or citizenships. 

It also foresees a dramatic reduction in the amount of time it takes to become eligible for German citizenship.

In future, people would be able to naturalise after five years of residence in the country rather than the current eight, while people who speak good German or fulfil other integration criteria could naturalise after three years rather than six.

Additionally, the Interior Ministry wants to grant automatic German citizenship to the children of foreign parents – provided their parents have been in the country at least five years – and remove language requirements for members of the guest-worker generation who want to become German. 

READ ALSO:

‘We don’t need reform’

High-profile politicians from the CDU have slammed the government’s plans to ease citizenship rules, with parliamentary leader Thorsten Frei describing the move as an attempt to “sell-off” German passports as a “junk commodity”.

“We don’t need reform,” Frei told public broadcaster ZDF. “There would no majority whatsoever in any party’s supporters for this change.”

Earlier this week, CDU leader Friedrich Merz had argued that expediting the naturalisation process would damage integration and allow people to immigrate into the benefits system more easily. 

“The CDU will not close its mind to a further modernisation of immigration law and the citizenship law of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merz told a meeting of CDU and CSU MPs in Berlin on Tuesday.

“However, we also attach importance to the fact that the granting of citizenship takes place at the end of an integration process and not at the beginning of it.” 

The CDU and CSU have previously been vocal opponents of permitting dual nationality, arguing that holding more than one citizenship would prevent people from fully integrating into German life. 

Nevertheless, it remains unclear if the opposition will be able to block the legislation in any meaningful way.

If there aren’t any substantial changes to the core of the citizenship bill when the amendments are made, the Interior Ministry believes it won’t need to be put to a vote in the Bundesrat – the upper house where the CDU and CSU hold a majority.

Instead, the parties of the traffic-light coalition – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) – would simply be able to vote it through in the Bundestag. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could Germany’s conservatives block dual citizenship?

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