Belgium star Eden Hazard says Germany should focus on football rather than “political messages” after its shock World Cup loss to Japan.
Four-time winners Germany was stunned by two late goals to lose 2-1, and made to rue missed opportunities in the first half.
The German team covered their mouths for the team photo before the match in a powerful protest against FIFA’s decision to ban rainbow-themed armbands.
Germany’s football federation tweeted in English moments after the photo protest: “It wasn’t about making a political statement — human rights are non-negotiable.
“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
The move was widely praised, but Hazard wasn’t a fan.
“Germany’s gesture? They would’ve done better if they didn’t do it and tried to win,” he said.
“We’re here to play football, I’m not here to convey a political message.”
He was backed by Switzerland star Granit Xhaka.
“I don’t think we need to do anything as the Swiss team.
“We need to respect the rules and concentrate on our football, that’s all I intend to do.
“We’re here to play football and not hand out lessons to anyone.”
A representative of the Swiss football federation had previously said Xhaka “would have liked” to wear the armband but would instead wear one provided by FIFA with an anti-racist message.
Captains of seven European teams had planned to wear the anti-discrimination armbands during the tournament in Qatar as part of a campaign for diversity.
But they backed down over the threat of disciplinary action from football’s governing body, including yellow cards.
The rainbow armbands had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
Germany’s football association (DFB) said on Tuesday it was examining the legality of FIFA’s threat, after some of the teams came under fire at home for failing to take a stronger stand against the stance of world football’s governing body.
Netherlands midfielder Davy Klaassen, whose country was one of the seven to back down, later praised the Germans for their protest.
“That’s a nice variation on the armband. It was a good way to do it,” he told reporters.
England manager Gareth Southgate said his side – which also planned to wear the One Love armband – wasn’t planning a protest of its own.
“No I don’t think we should feel any pressure. I think there is a risk everyone tries to escalate. Do we have to come up with a better gesture than Germany did?” Southgate said.
“We have to be comfortable that we know what we stand for. If we are rushing to be seen to do something we can make an error that doesn’t land well.
“Myself and the players have to be focused on the games.”