‘We’re here to play football, not to give a political message’: Belgium’s Eden Hazard takes aim at Germany for covering their mouths in protest of FIFA’s OneLove armband ban before shock defeat against Japan
Eden Hazard appeared critical of Germany’s gesture ahead of their match with Japan, in which the starting XI covered their mouths after being prevented from wearing the ‘One love’ armband’ to denounce the threat of FIFA sanctions.
The Real Madrid forward claimed that the four-time World Cup winners might have made a better impact had they focused more on winning the game than making a statement in the game, according to RMC Sport.
Players had been warned against wearing OneLove armbands promoting inclusivity at a tournament held in a country with a questionable human rights record, and Hazard admitted he did not want to risk incurring an automatic yellow card.
‘Yes, but afterwards they lost the match,’ Hazard said, when asked for his thoughts on the gesture made by the German side on Wednesday.
‘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.’
Several European nations, including England and Wales, had been prepared to wear OneLove armbands at the tournament, to promote inclusivity in football.
Eden Hazard claimed Germany would have been better off focusing on football against Japan
Germany’s players covered their mouths in response to the threat of sporting sanctions
However on the eve of England’s opener against Iran on Monday, FIFA ruled that those who wore the armbands would face sporting sanctions, prompting teams to switch back to regular armbands.
However Hansi Flick’s Germany side were quick to take initiative into their own hands and make a statement of their own to show their feelings on the matter.
While Germany went on to lose their competition opener in shocking circumstances, Hazard’s Belgium narrowly avoided a similar fate against Canada.
Despite the only goal of the game coming from Divock Origi at the end of the first half, Canada dominated the tie.
Star man Alphonso Davies missed an early penalty, which proved to be his side’s best chance, with wayward finishing and a lack of composure in the final third the only thing separating Belgium from an embarrassing opening result.
Players that disregarded the ruling from FIFA were warned that one of the punishments they could face would be starting games with a yellow card to their name.
Belgium struggled in their 1-0 win over Canada in their tournament opener on Wednesday
Whilst under ordinary circumstances a caution may not appear too hefty a punishment in exchange for spreading a message of solidarity, players will face one-match bans if they accrue consecutive yellows.
‘I’m not comfortable talking about it because I’m here to play football,’ Hazard added.
‘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.
‘To do it again, maybe I will postpone it.’