How great can you be in the discipline of human rights football if you messed it up playing real football on the pitch? To understand the connection between sporting success and political credibility, just imagine the following utopia:
After the German national team’s brilliant 7-0 victory over Japan, DFB President Bernd Neuendorf announced that the team would wear rainbow socks again against Spain and set “a sign”. Despite the yellow card given by Fifa for this demonstration of “our values”.
DFB has a credibility problem
So: How would such a political action have been received if it had really happened and Germany had played as well as Spain played Costa Rica? It is obvious: A victory would have given the DFB policy a boost. The consequence: whoever loses one game, the sporting one, also loses the other, the political one. A question of credibility.
Unfortunately, the many reporters sent to Qatar never heard the obvious question before or after the Germans’ opening game: are the footballers being too distracted from their core business by the political debate and the confessions that are being asked of them?
After all, the meaning of football is to win. And not the political demonstration.
Being a moral world champion is more important than a soccer world champion
Instead, you could hear Andreas Bachmann from Bayerischer Rundfunk commenting on the padding dispute in the ARD Tagesthemen: “Better to risk a point deduction with a One Love pad and fly out in the group phase than to become world champion without it.” What he wanted to say: a demonstration politically correct morality is more important than victory on the pitch. So it has come so far.
Being a moral world champion is more important than a soccer world champion. That’s the statement. And it shows the tension that can result when at least public people are asked to always show an “attitude”, of course the right one. In this specific case, those that the SPD-led federal government has specified with its phrase about “value-based foreign policy”. Translated, values mean: morality before interest, morality before money. This “value orientation” made it into German football long before the former SPD board spokesman Neuendorf became president of the DFB.
The hot Qatari reality
One longs for the times when it was still a matter of course for the captains of the German team to wear the German flag on their arm, proud to be able to represent not “values” but their country. Just like Michael Ballack, when in 2006 the “world was visiting friends” at the “Summer Fairy Tale” – a celebration of international understanding and tolerance.
Back from the nostalgia of innocent patriotism to the hot Qatari reality, in which a football team competes to negotiate the universal validity of human rights with an Islamist state and a capitalist organization. You’ve seen what can happen.
“The compelling will was missing,” said Manuel Neuer after the game. Why was this willing lacking?
“The coolness was missing.” Said Ilkay Gündogan. “In the end we didn’t want the ball enough.” Why weren’t they cool?
Anyone who has ever been in a sporting competition, regardless of the discipline, knows that the decision about victory or defeat is made in your head. Always. And the head must be free. If he isn’t, you lose. There are no coincidences, what is there is a chain of decisions.
In any case, there was still a lot of room in the minds of the German team for non-football, for setting “a sign”. When the players gathered for a group photo – just before the game – with their left hand over their mouth. They were saying that their “values” were not up for debate. Although they had already capitulated to Fifa because Manuel Neuer didn’t wear the “One Love” captain’s armband. It was a gesture of justification – and anyone who has to justify themselves publicly has at least lost the political game.
After the German defeat against the Japanese, the group photo with the political gesture was posted by a Qatari sports journalist who has more than 400,000 followers on Twitter as @Qatari, combined with the following words: “This is what happens when you don’t focus on football.” (This is what happens when you don’t focus on soccer.)
In fact, Neuer made a human rights commitment on the Qatar soccer field – with the armband “No discrimination”. It was approved by Fifa. It was also worn by other European players – Dutch, Danish, English, Welsh.
“We Germans love moral discussions”
So Neuer took a stand for Western values, but did so in accordance with the rules, as required by Fifa, which actually owns the World Cup. The World Football Association had recalled Article 13.8.1 of the Equipment Rules: “For FIFA finals, the captain of each team must wear an armband provided by Fifa.” Fifa supports campaigns such as “One Love”, but this must be done within the rules , which are known to all.
One would like to hear the opinion of the DFB on this matter. Why should the vague, inconsistent “One Love” actually be better than the clear, consistent “No Discrimination”? Just because it comes from the nasty Fifa? Or because you simply want to assert your allegedly powerful German head?
“We Germans love moral discussions.” That’s what Ronald Reng, one of the best German sports journalists, says. After the instructions that the federal governments gave to other countries: in the euro crisis, in the refugee crisis, in the Ukraine crisis, more recently in the climate crisis, where Germany absolutely wants to be a “pioneer” even though it is by far not the main cause, you could say it like this:
Some of us tend towards extremism in principle. It’s an attitude that’s easy to get caught up in double standards, like begging for gas from Qatari slave owners. (The real news isn’t that Robert Habeck bowed to the Sheik, but that he didn’t even bring Qatari gas.)
Infantino, Faeser and the Bandage
In the stadium, on the honorary stand, Germany’s Minister of Sport Nancy Faeser then wore the “One Love” bandage. She sat down next to the Fifa boss, showed him the armband and said, according to her own statements: “It’s not as bad as you think, is it?” Gianni Infantino simply smiled away at Faeser. Just like he tried to neutralize all criticism with the phrase “I feel gay”.
None of the Qatari security personnel made any move to remove Faeser’s bandage at this scene. Maybe it was because of the appreciation of the Qataris.
For Gianni Infantino.