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Five of the biggest World Cup protests as Germany players cover mouths in FIFA OneLove armband row

Chris Byfield

| Last updated 

Five of the biggest World Cup protests as Germany players cover mouths in FIFA OneLove armband row

Germany players covered their mouths and wore rainbow stripes on their warm-up kits and boots in protest against FIFA before their World Cup opener against Japan.

Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser reinforced the message, as she wore a OneLove armband, which promotes tolerance, diversity and LGBTQ+ rights while sitting next to FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.

Nationalelf are one of seven teams, including Wales and England, that had planned to wear the OneLove armband in protest of Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. However, FIFA banned the armband on Sunday, warning any nation that wore it would face sporting sanctions if they defied football’s governing body.

It was not the first time a nation had staged a protest at a World Cup. Below are five further examples.

Uruguay's boycott (1934)

World Cup holders Uruguay boycotted the 1934 competition held in Italy.

The country was upset by the lack of European competitors that travelled to their home competition in 1930, so in a tit-for-tat move, refused to travel to Europe to defend their crown.

It is the only time a World Cup winner has not featured at the subsequent tournament

Africa's boycott (1966)

The 1966 World Cup was boycotted by 31 African nations after a 1964 FIFA rule claimed that the three second-round winners from the African qualifying must enter a play-off round against the winners of the Asian qualifying.

The winner would then be granted a place at the World Cup.


The Confederation of African Football were angry that winning their zone was not deemed enough in itself to merit automatic qualification and in turn, all 31 African teams boycotted the tournament.

Africa would end their boycott once at least one African team had a place assured at the tournament, which was the case in 1970.

Anti-Putin invasion (2018)

No drastic action from countries was taken in 2018 when the World Cup was held in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which four years earlier had annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine.

However, feminist punk bank ‘Pussy Riot’ stormed the final between France and Croatia in an attempt to draw attention to the host nation’s human rights abuses.

The 25-second pitch invasion, which was described as “performance art” by the group, saw all four members receive a short prison sentence.

Saltillo Affair (1986)

Portugal's disastrous World Cup campaign, which was undermined by a string of controversies, saw the team threaten a strike.

Portugal players were angered by several issues - the facilities at their Saltillo base were poor, while players had not been paid for advertisements. The latter resulted in a war of press releases between the players and the federation.

Portugal exited in the group stage, while it took Portuguese football a decade to recover from the calamitous campaign.

French strike (2010)

One thing the French have demonstrated since 1789, is that they are incredibly willing to strike.

The 2006 runners-up entered South Africa with a squad still brimming with talent. But when an argument between the mercurial Nicolas Anelka and manager Raymond Domenech spilt to the press all drama ensued.

France captain Patrice Evra was labelled a “traitor” in the French ranks for allegedly leaking to story. Then the players refused to train following a decision by the French Football Federation to expel Anelka.

Les Blues were, of course, dumped out of the competition in the group stages.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Shutterstock

Topics: Football, Football World Cup, Germany, Uruguay, France

Chris Byfield
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