BERLIN – Europe’s governing football body on Tuesday denied Munich’s request to light its stadium in the rainbow colors of the pride flag when Germany meets Hungary at the European Football Championships – to protest a recent Hungarian law proposed an act that critics say is being used to target the LGBT community.
The governing body, UEFA, said the political nature of the request was in violation of its rules.
“Given the political context of this specific request – a message aimed at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament – UEFA should reject this request,” the organization said in a statement. Neither team commented on the controversy.
The Lightning Spat is the latest example of the extent to which politics and cultural debate have entered the month-long tournament over identity, cast as a way to inject some entertainment and normalcy into societies battered by the coronavirus pandemic. I went.
The proposal garnered widespread support in Germany, which ranks 16th in the EU-funded annual Survey of Europe’s 49 Most LGBTQ-Friendly Countries, and boasts vibrant gay communities in its larger cities, including Munich, Cologne and Berlin. Hungary came in 27th place in the annual survey of human rights and equality.
UEFA instead proposed that Munich light up the stadium in the colors of the rainbow on an alternate day, For example, when the Bavarian capital celebrates pride – a demonstration the city and region has made An annual tradition since 2016.
Other teams from Germany soccer league is league They said they would light up their empty stadiums in a rainbow during Wednesday’s game. UEFA’s decision does not apply to their stadiums as they are not hosting official tournament games.
The original plan to illuminate the Munich Stadium during the championship was turquoise with a green band, the colors of UEFA, alternating with the colors of the respective opponents’ national flags on game days.
The debate surrounding the request took place between officials in both countries.
“Mixing sport and politics is extremely harmful and dangerous,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Sizzarto told MTI news agency in Hungary. “Historical experience shows that this is a bad thing, and the Germans in particular know it very well.”
Chancellor Angel Merkel, commenting through her spokesperson, sought to highlight the flag’s symbolism without getting involved in the controversy.
“What does Rainbow stand for? It means how we want to live: with respect for each other, without discrimination of minorities who have long been marginalised,” said Ms Merkel’s spokesman, Stephen Seibert. “Certainly most people can stand for it.”
This month, German captain Manuel Neuer checked in with UEFA for donning an iridescent armband in honor of Pride Month. On Monday, the German football federation, the DFB, said in a statement that UEFA had decided to drop the review after determining that the colored stripes worn on the goalkeeper’s left arm were “as a team symbol for diversity”. And thus a ‘good reason.'”
Hungarian fans have also come under scrutiny for their conduct during previous games, before and during the tournament. Budapest is the only stadium in Europe allowing capacity crowds, and French and German media reported listening to a separate block. monkey making noisy fans When N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé – all black players in France – touched the ball.
Piara Povar, executive director of the anti-discrimination group Fair Network, said that her organization, which is monitoring behavior inside stadiums during the tournament, received reports of a homosexuality banner, which came to prominence during Hungary’s game against Portugal. was displayed from.
that incident happened a few days later Fans make fun of Irish national team players He took a knee in support of racial equality at a pre-tournament warm-up game in Budapest.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán defended his country’s fans. “If you are a guest in a country, understand its culture. And don’t excite the locals,” he told reporters at a news conference in Budapest on June 10. “If you’re the guest don’t excite the host.”
UEFA said it was Ethics and Discipline Inspector appointed Hungary to conduct a “disciplinary investigation in relation to potentially discriminatory incidents” that occurred during the matches played at home against Portugal and France.
London is to host the semi-finals and final games of the championship, but Budapest has been widely touted as an alternate venue for UEFA if an agreement cannot be reached on Covid travel restrictions. Sandor Csanyi, an influential Hungarian banker, is the Vice President of UEFA.
Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter said on Tuesday he would not allow UEFA’s decision to stop the city from taking a stand on the issue.
“We will not be stopped from sending clear signals to Hungary,” he told reporters and vowed to light a wind turbine near the stadium with rainbow colors and hoist the pride flag from the city hall and other public buildings. “We will make clear that we in Munich stand for equality, for self-determination in sexual identities and for solidarity with all people.”
tariq paw Contributed and contributed from London Benjamin Nowaki from Hungary.