‘I’m here to play football’ – Belgium star Hazard hits out at Germany players for covered mouths protest

Joe Williams
Eden Hazard looks frustrated

Belgium winger Eden Hazard says he is “here to play football” and not to “send a political message” after criticising the covered mouth protest from the German players.

The Germany starting XI covered their mouths in their team photo ahead of their 2-1 loss to Japan on Wednesday to highlight the feeling of being silenced by FIFA.

The world governing body warned seven European nations over wearing the OneLove anti-discrimination armband at the World Cup and said they would face consequences.

Same-sex relationships are criminalised in Qatar and the year-long campaign was seen as particularly significant in Qatar before FIFA got involved.

They warned that captains wearing the armbands would be given a yellow card and the OneLove group were forced to drop their plans for the tournament on Monday.

On the covered mouths message, German boss Hansi Flick said: “It was a sign, a message that we wanted to send out. We wanted to convey the message that FIFA is silencing us.”

But Belgium winger Hazard insists that Germany would’ve been “better not to do it and to win” against Japan and that he is “focused on football”.

When asked about the German gesture, Hazard replied: “Afterwards they lost the match. They would have done better not to do it and to win.

“We are here to play football, I am not here to send a political message, people are better placed for that. We want to be focused on football.

“I’m not comfortable talking about it because I’m here to play football. We were banned for a bit… I didn’t want to start the match with a yellow card, it would have been annoying for the rest of the tournament.”

Ashley Brown, from the Football Supporters’ Association’s England Fans’ Embassy, was pleased to see the Germany players’ protest and reckons it won’t have gone unnoticed amongst the England squad.

“For all its corporate messaging around diversity, and everyone being welcome, FIFA capitulated to intolerance when it banned players from wearing the One Love armband,” Brown said.

“Such was FIFA’s timing, falling on the morning of England’s World Cup opener, that players had little time to react and, understandably, by that stage were in game mode.

“Germany obviously had a little more time to think about how they would make their statement and they’re to be commended for making such an impactful and meaningful gesture.

“We’re sure that action hasn’t gone without notice in the England squad, many of the players have a track record in speaking up on social issues, and we’re certain they’d have approved.”

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