DOHA, Nov 24 (Reuters) – A handful of Qataris wore armbands featuring a pro-Palestinian design at the World Cup match between Japan and Germany on Wednesday, according to pictures posted on Twitter, amid a row over symbols political allowed in the main event football game.
The armbands wore the black-and-white design of the keffiyeh scarf that is synonymous with the Palestinian cause and was an apparent response to players and officials protesting FIFA’s move to punish players who wear the “OneLove” armband on the pitch.
Reuters confirmed the Twitter photos with eyewitnesses at the stadium.
Nearby, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wore a OneLove armband, which features a multi-coloured striped heart that promotes inclusion and opposes discrimination.
Last week, seven European teams abandoned their plans to wear the arms on the pitch after FIFA threatened them with sanctions.
Before Wednesday’s kick-off, German players put their hands over their mouths during a team photo to protest the world soccer move.
Japan went on to defeat Germany 2-1.
Qatari officials have appeared increasingly annoyed by what they consider to be unfair criticism of the decision to award Qatar the World Cup hosting rights, particularly from German officials including Faeser.
The World Cup, the first to be held in a Middle Eastern country, has focused on LGBT+ rights in Qatar, where homosexuality remains illegal but some queer residents say they have more freedom than u peers across the region.
A few highly publicized incidents of security preventing ticket holders wearing pro-LGBT+ rainbow designs from entering World Cup stadiums added fuel to the debate over what political symbols are allowed at the games.
The tournament has also fueled pro-Palestinian sentiments among some locals, particularly in response to the Qatari government’s decision to allow direct flights from Tel Aviv for the World Cup as well as a delegation of Israeli diplomats to handle logistics.
It is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 Israeli fans will visit Qatar during the month-long tournament.
Israelis are usually prevented from visiting Qatar, which does not officially recognize Israel, placing Palestinian statehood as a condition for recognition.
Reporting by Andrew Mills; Edited by Paul Simao
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