German head coach Hansi Flick made the decision not to send any of his players to the Spain press conference on Saturday (26 November), but not for the reasons you might think.
German players have already protested against FIFA’s banning of the ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband this World Cup, with the 11 starters against Japan placing their hands over their mouths for the team picture.
However, unlike that very pointed protest, Flick claims that his decision not to send a player to the press conference was purely down to football-related reasons.
The former Bayern Munich manager told reporters (via Marca): “We have a three-hour journey to come and speak here and I prefer the players to be resting and recharging their energy.
“We have fantastic facilities to be able to hold press conferences, but they won’t let us speak there, so I’ve decided to come on my own. My players have to think only about Spain.”
Some people are speculating that the reason he provided is merely a smokescreen to ensure that the German FA doesn’t get hit with a punishment from FIFA.
After all, German players and pundits have been some of the most vocal against Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
The Gulf state has been heavily criticised in the build-up for its treatment of migrant workers,, with thousands reportedly dying while working on World Cup stadiums and facilities.
Moreover, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, with violations of this law punishable by imprisonment. Since the beginning of the tournament, there have been several notable flashpoints, with some fans being barred from entering stadiums in Qatar due to wearing rainbow bucket hats or carrying colourful flags.
Nevertheless, Flick insists that the latest player boycott is unrelated. Instead, he claims it is due to the 100km distance between where the German side is based, and where the press conferences are held – which interrupts their preparation the day before a game.
For now, Flick insists the focus is on the football.
He added: “It’s just the way it is. We need to accept a lot of other things about all this noise in the background of what happened before the tournament, and the story with the armband. The main focus for me has been the football.”
For Germany, Sunday night’s game against Spain is quite simply do or die, as defeat will almost certainly knock the 2014 World Champions out of the World Cup.
The game, due to get underway at 7pm UK time, could hardly have come at a worse time for the Germans, as opponents Spain opened their campaign with a 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica.