Bernd Neuendorf, the head of the German Football Federation, has criticized FIFA after the top football body asked players to not get involved in human rights violation issues in Qatar

Speaking at Germany’s first World Cup press conference in Qatar, Neuendorf said that FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s letter from two weeks ago urging teams to “concentrate on the sport” and leave political problems aside irritated him.

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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.

The federation needed to send a message to demonstrate that it won’t be silent, he continued.

Neuendorf also made reference to FIFA’s ruling that Denmark’s national team cannot wear the phrase “Human Rights For All” on their training shirts. 

“That was declared as a political statement and therefore prohibited,” he added. “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.”

According to Neuendorf, Germany is working with other European federations to have their captains wear armbands with rainbow heart designs during World Cup matches as a form of protest against discrimination.

“It’s not a political statement, because it’s a statement for human rights,” he further said, adding that if Germany was banned he “would be quite prepared to accept a fine as well.”

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino wrote a letter last month to all 32 teams participating in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar saying that “there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world”, but, he argued, football is expected to have an answer to all of them.

He added that “everyone is welcome” to attend the tournament, “regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality”, which runs contrary to commitments made by Qatar, which appears far more exclusionary.