Germany protest reflects democratic values, German govt backs protest

·2-min read
World Cup Qualifiers Europe - Group J - Germany v Iceland

(Reuters) - The German government backed a move by the country's players to show support for migrant workers building 2022 World Cup stadiums in Qatar on Thursday, a government spokesman said, saying it reflected their commitment to democratic values.

"The national team ... is a good part of Germany and therefore it is good when they commit to the values of our liberal democracy," government spokesman Steffen Seibert told journalists at a regular government news conference in Berlin on Friday.

"That is something good, in times when democracy is not really on the rise worldwide," he added.

Germany lined up before kickoff in their opening Group J qualifier against Iceland at Duisburg wearing shirts displaying the message "HUMAN RIGHTS".

Norway staged a similar protest on Wednesday ahead of their match in Gibraltar when their players wore T-shirts with the message: "Human rights, on and off the pitch".

The initiatives come in the wake of a report by British newspaper The Guardian that said its calculations showed at least 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since the country won the right to stage the 2022 World Cup 10 years ago.

German coach Joachim Loew said earlier the team had made an important statement, adding that it stood for human rights, "no matter the location".

He said he knew about his players' plan to protest but that he was not the "driving force" behind it.

"The players have drawn everything on their shirts. It was supposed to be the first statement by us, by the team," he said.

"We stand for human rights, no matter the location. Those are our values. Therefore, it was a very good and important statement."

On Thursday, a representative of the Qatari World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), said they had "always been transparent about the health and safety of workers".

"Since construction began in 2014, there have been three work-related fatalities and 35 non-work-related deaths," the representative added.

"The SC has investigated each case, learning lessons to avoid any repeat in the future. The SC has disclosed each incident through public statements and or Annual Workers’ Welfare Progress Reports."

Football's world governing body FIFA said after the Norway protest that no action would be taken against the players.

"FIFA believes in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good," FIFA said. "No disciplinary proceedings in relation to this matter will be opened by FIFA."

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru and Alexander Ratz in Germany; Writing by Maria Sheahan and Manasi Pathak; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Jonathan Oatis)