Football

Eden Hazard to Germany: Focus on football, shun protests

After Hansi Flick's squad was stunned by Japan 2-1 in their Qatar 2022 opener, Eden Hazard urged Germany to focus on the game and not engage in unnecessary protests.

After Hansi Flick’s squad was stunned by Japan 2-1 in their Qatar 2022 opener, Eden Hazard urged Germany to focus on the game and not engage in unnecessary protests.

Germany’s starting lineup protested FIFA’s response to the OneLove campaign by covering their mouths during Wednesday’s pre-match team photo.

Football’s governing body warned teams whose players supported the anti-discrimination initiative, saying that players and coaches who wore OneLove armbands would be penalised.

However, as another apparent show of support for LGBTQ+ rights, Die Mannschaft warmed up for the Japan match wearing training shirts with rainbow-coloured trim.

While many applauded the German team’s stand, Belgium and Real Madrid forward Hazard thinks the German players should focus on the game instead.

Hazard told the press, “They lost the match.”

“They would have been better off not doing it and winning. We’re here to play football. There are people more qualified than me to convey a political message, so I won’t. We’d like to keep our focus on the football game.

As planned, seven European teams, including Germany and Belgium, intended to wear the specially designed armbands in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are illegal.

When asked about his feelings and whether he would have liked to show his support, Hazard replied, “I’m not at ease talking about it. I’m here to play football.

“We were kind of forbidden from… I didn’t want to start the match with a yellow card; it would have been annoying for the rest of the tournament.

“If I were to redo it, maybe I would wear it.”

Japan beat Germany 2-1 thanks to late goals from substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano. Ilkay Gundogan had given Germany the lead from the penalty spot.

Meanwhile, Belgium avoided an upset in their opening group match with a 1-0 win over Canada thanks to a goal from Michy Batshuayi at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.