Just a couple of months ago in Qatar, the German Football Team covered their mouths for a team photo, after captain Manuel Neuer was not allowed to wear the One Love armband to send a message for inclusivity. Fast forward to Odisha now, there's a German captain at a World Cup proudly wearing his rainbow armband.
Mats Grambusch, captain of the German Men's Hockey team makes it clear he is making a statement on behalf of his team. "We're proud representing an entire community," Grambusch says, "this is our way."
"In Hockey, in high performance, it's always really hard to come out and say, 'hey, I'm gay'," Grambusch said of his inspiration behind wearing the rainbow armband.
"I don't know any male player at any level who has come out as gay, but when you see the statistics, there actually can be. Sometimes maybe some people have to have some other people to stand up for something and they will follow."
"Why can't we as a team and as people stand up for them and make life easier?" he asked.
This wasn't an idea that struck Grambusch just ahead of the 2023 FIH Men's Hockey World Cup. He has been wearing the rainbow armband for his club Rot-Weiss Köln for the last three years, and has carried that on to the national team at the biggest stage in the sport.
"I do feel like in Germany, and all over the world, we should be more tolerant, more open about accepting people who have other beliefs, people who have other sexuality," he said.
Did that FIFA World Cup saga sow seeds of doubt on whether the German hockey team wanted to go ahead with the rainbow armband at the FIH Men's World Cup? Not at all, according to their captain.
"We were sure we were going to wear it. It doesn't matter what the football players are doing. It's different in hockey," he said.
Grambusch wasn't keen on taking the comparison with the footballers too far, but made a basic distinction between the two scenarios. "Our values, the values we want to represent as a team, that is something we are actually doing. We are not just waiting for something, or changing the band, or whatever else," he said.
- Why did FIFA ban the LGBTQ OneLove armband at the World Cup?
Grambusch also said that unlike FIFA, the FIH were pleased with the idea of Germany wearing the rainbow armband. The German captain said that was important because to his team, these are the values they wanted to represent.
Oh, remember when Arsene Wenger said the teams making political demonstrations had their on-field performances affected? Well, Germany are in the quarterfinal here in Odisha, have scored 17 goals in 4 matches, and have already once challenged the might of Belgium. Who's to say they can't do it again in a more consequential match?
In Mats Grambusch, they also have a leader who's willing to stand tall and not compromise on the values that his team stands for.