GOAL! Japan takes a 2-1 lead

Germany fan Nick Boettcher waves a German flag in the Khalifa International Stadium on November 23. (Don Riddell/CNN)

It was a moment so brief that the thousands of fans inside the Khalifa International Stadium could easily have missed it. But a moment, the time it took for the photographers amassed in front of the German World Cup team to snap a picture, was all it needed for Germany’s national football team to stage a protest.

The starting 11 all posed with their right hands in front of their mouths, and within minutes, the image was circulating widely on social media. As Germany kicked off their World Cup campaign against Japan in group E, the team’s social media feed confirmed that the gesture was designed as a protest to FIFA’s decision to ban the ‘OneLove’ armband that many European captains had been hoping to wear in Qatar.

“We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values ​​that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect,” the statement read. “Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard. It wasn’t about making a political statement, human rights are non-negotiable. Denying the bracelet is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

Germany fan Nick Boettcher told CNN that it was “sad” that FIFA had taken the stance to deny players the opportunity to wear the armband. “FIFA is making a lot of questionable decisions and so it’s good that people speak up. I’m very proud that they did that. People will talk about this for sure, and the attention will grow. The pressure on FIFA and Qatar is definitely increasing.”

England fan Samir Cordell told CNN inside that stadium that he was “over the moon” with the protest. “Germany and the German fans should be proud,” he said. “I’m an England fan and I didn’t like seeing England not wearing the armband. I would have loved to see Harry Kane wear it and get the booking. I think it’s great, I think it’s fantastic. Hats off to them. “

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