Arsene Wenger has hinted that Germany lost sight of the World Cup due to “political protests”, contributing to their elimination in the group stage.
Germany, world champions in 2014, were knocked out of the group stage for the second consecutive World Cup after covering their mouths in their team photo before their opening match against Japan for Protest FIFA’s ban on OneLove armbands.
The gesture came after the German Football Association (DFB) told captain Manuel Neuer not to wear the rainbow armband for the game against Japan following FIFA’s warning that he would face “massive” sporting penalties if he wears the armband, which promotes diversity and inclusion.
England, Wales, the Netherlands and several other nations also did not wear the armband.
Germany were not disciplined by FIFA for their pre-match gesture, but Wenger, who is FIFA’s head of global football development, suggested they could have lost their concentration.
Wenger, when asked about Germany’s exit, said during the World Cup technical study group briefing: “You know, when you go to a World Cup, you know you can’t lose the first game Teams that have experience playing in tournaments like France and England played well in the first game.
“Teams that were mentally ready, with a mindset to focus on competition, not political protests.”
The Qatar World Cup saw much political discussion from teams, with some expressing concern over the host’s treatment of migrant workers, its approach to LGBTQ+ rights and FIFA’s threats to penalize players for their political statements.
The German FA have been the most vocal in pushing for ‘OneLove’ anti-discrimination armbands to be worn by players and said ‘extreme blackmail’ has led to Germany, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands Netherlands, Wales, England and Switzerland to drop plans to wear them.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who sat next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the VIP box, wore a OneLove armband in support of the national team.
The DFB lost one of its business partners last week when German supermarket chain REWE ended its sponsorship deal over the armband dispute.
REWE Chief Executive Lionel Souque said: “We stand for diversity and football is diversity. FIFA’s outrageous behavior is for me, as the CEO of a diverse company, as well as a football fan, absolutely unacceptable.”
DFB media director Steffen Simon said Deutschlandfunk radio that England, who were the first team to consider wearing it, had been threatened with multiple sporting sanctions.
Denmark has also taken a stand on armbands and last month wanted to use a training kit with human rights slogans.
Speculation had swirled over a threat from Denmark to pull out of FIFA over the armbands, which his federation dismissed as a media misunderstanding.