Qatar locals have hit back at Germany’s covered mouth gesture by bringing pictures of Mesut Ozil to the country’s clash with Spain at the World Cup. The former Arsenal star walked away from the national team in 2018 citing ‘racism’ and ‘disrespect’.
Germany made headlines during their defeat to Japan after covering their mouths during their team photograph, suggesting they had been silenced from speaking out about Qatar’s record on human and LGBTQ+ rights.
National skipper Manuel Neuer had been set to join captains from Denmark, Belgium, England, Wales and the Netherlands by wearing the ‘OneLove’ armband in protest at Qatar’s LGBTQ+ laws but backed down after FIFA threatened the Bayern Munich keeper with sporting sanctions including a yellow card and potential match suspensions.
However, the Qatari locals have not taken kindly to the protest and have hit back by taking photos of Ozil to the match. The creative midfielder won 92 caps for the national team between 2009 and 2018 but quit citing ‘racism’ and ‘disrespect’.
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“It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect,” the 34-year-old wrote in a statement at the time. “I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t. I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”
His decision came after Germany’s early exit from the World Cup in 2018 with Ozil feeling he had been unfairly blamed for what had happened. The player, who has Turkish ancestry, had been widely criticised before the tournament for having a picture taken with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who had been accused of human rights abuses and spoken negatively about Germany in the past.
Qatar locals aimed to highlight what they saw as double standards from the protest by highlighting Ozil’s comments on his treatment.
Germany will face no punishment from FIFA for their protest and explained why they did it in a statement released at the time.
It read: “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 salvaged a draw from their match with Spain despite falling behind in the 62nd minute via a strike from Alvaro Morata. Niclas Fullkrug levelled the scoring with his second international goal meaning the country must be Costa Rica in the final group match to stand any chance of making it to the knockout stages.