Germany chief slams FIFA over ‘focus on football’

German football association (DFB) president Bernd Neuendorf has criticised FIFA for its attempts to restrict national teams’ political activities when it comes to human rights.

Speaking at Germany’s first news conference in Qatar ahead of the World Cup, Neuendorf said on Friday he was particularly annoyed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s letter two weeks ago urging teams to “focus on the football” and leave political issues aside.

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“That the topic of human rights should now no longer play a role, that we are now concentrating here on football only, that irritated us to a certain extent and disturbed us,” Neuendorf said.

He added the federation had to send a signal to show it will not be silenced.

Neuendorf also referred to FIFA’s decision to ban the Denmark team from bearing the slogan “Human Rights For All” on training jerseys.

“That was declared as a political statement and therefore prohibited,” Neuendorf said. “We’re not talking about a political decision that can be made one way or the other with a slogan like ‘Human Rights For All.’ It’s about human rights. And human rights are universal and binding all over the world.”

Neuendorf said Germany was cooperating with other European federations who want their captains to wear an armband with a rainbow heart design during World Cup games to protest against discrimination.

“It’s not a political statement, because it’s a statement for human rights,” said Neuendorf, who added if it was banned, “I would be quite prepared to accept a fine as well.”

The chief executive of England’s FA has also said that they would be prepared to pay any fine, while noting that FIFA have yet to provide a response to their request to wear the armband.

“They haven’t given us any response to our letter,” Mark Bullingham told Sky News.

“I think there’s a possibility that we might be fined. And if we are, then we’ll pay the fine. We think it’s really important to show our values. And that’s what we’ll be doing.”

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