DOHA, Qatar — Germany players protested FIFA’s suppression of their anti-discrimination messaging with a non-verbal statement of defiance ahead of their 2022 World Cup opener Wednesday.

While posing for a standard pregame photo at the Khalifa International stadium, all 11 starters cupped their right hands to their mouth, an implicit reference to their Monday statement that FIFA had threatened them with “sporting sanctions” if captain Manuel Neuer wore a “OneLove” armband with a multi-colored heart.

Shortly after the photo was taken, the team’s official Twitter account posted it with the caption:

“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,” the tweet concluded. “We stand by our position.”

Germany and six other European teams had said in September, and as recently as last week, that they planned to wear the armbands, which are part of a broader campaign originally launched by the Dutch soccer federation (KNBV) against discrimination. “The colors in the heart of the logo represent everyone’s pride in their own origin, color, gender identity and sexual orientation,” the KNBV said in September.

FIFA, though, did not respond to or engage with the European federations until this past weekend, on the eve of the tournament. And when it did, it was “very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the European nations, which also included England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, and Switzerland, said in their statement.

They all opted against wearing the armbands, but some have spoken out against FIFA’s stance — and none more vocally than Germany.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 23: Germany players cover their mouths in protest as they pose for a team photo during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images)

DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 23: Germany players cover their mouths in protest as they pose for a team photo during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images)

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