The Munich Stadium has worn the colors of the rainbow and looks great doing it as recently seen at the city’s Christopher Street Days pride celebration. But citing a policy on “political and religious neutrality” the League forbid the planned protest lights. Picking up the slack, other German Stadiums went full rainbow and fans filled the stadium with flags and face paints and arm bands and other rainbow products, joined by some players.
The growing divide over anti-LGBTQ legislation recently passed in Hungary even played out on the pitch Wednesday when the German soccer team hosted Hungarian national team for a UEFA EURO 2020 tournament group stage match in Munich.
The Hungarian government has explicitly targeted the country’s LGBTQ population under authoritarian leader Viktor Orban, including the passage of a law banning the “promotion” of LGBTQ identities to minors. This and many other discriminatory laws passed in recent years have prompt human rights groups to decry the European nation for its attitude of erasure toward the LGBTQ community.
Germany planned to illuminate Munich’s Allianz Arena, the location of Wednesday’s match, in the colors of the rainbow as a public response to Hungary’s treatment of LGBTQ communities, but European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, blocked the move, citing its commitment to remain “politically and religiously neutral.”
“The rainbow colors are a tribute to diversity and to the fact that we are all equal. It has nothing to do with politics,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand told German press outlet dpa. “I pay respect to the fact that [German team captain] Manuel Neuer and the German national team want to take social responsibility.”
“I find it shameful that UEFA forbids us to send a sign for cosmopolitanism, tolerance, respect and solidarity with the people of the LGBT community,” Munich mayor Dieter Reiter told France24. Orban and other Hungarian officials have consistently maintained that the law isn’t discriminatory toward LGBTQ Hungarians despite critics highlighting that the legislation equates homosexuality with pedophilia.
Some pointed to the hypocrisy of UEFA’s statement by pointing to the organization inserting the rainbow into its logo for Pride month. “For UEFA, the rainbow is not a political symbol, but a sign of our firm commitment to a more diverse and inclusive society,” UEFA said in a statement prior to Wednesday’s match.
“It’s true, the football pitch is not about politics. It’s about people, about fairness, about tolerance,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “That’s why UEFA is sending the wrong signal.” In response, the city of Munich altered its protest plans. Rainbow flags adorned Munich’s town hall while, according to the Associated Press, rainbow Pride flags outnumbered German flags outside Allianz Arena.
A fan in a German soccer jersey ran onto the pitch waving a Pride flag while the Hungarian national anthem played prior to the start of the match. Rainbow flags were flown by fans throughout the stadium and a collection of soccer stadiums throughout Germany lit up their buildings in rainbow lights during the match.
Orban canceled plans to attend Wednesday’s match as the backlash against his nation’s treatment of LGBTQ people continued to grow.
The European Union has also weighed in, stating its opposition to the Hungarian laws. “This Hungarian bill is a shame,” said Ursela von der Leyen, European Commission president. “This bill clearly discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation. It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union: human dignity, equality and respect for human rights … I will use all the powers of the Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed. Whoever they are and wherever they live within the European Union.”
Germany joined with 13 other EU nations in support of a statement from Belgian officials condemning Hungary’s latest anti-LGBTQ law as being discrimination disguised as an effort to protect children. “A union of values is not an à la carte menu. We have a collective responsibility to protect the rights of all EU citizens, and therefore we have a duty to make our voice heard and to react when those rights and our values are undermined,” said Sophie Wilmès, Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister.
Wednesday match ended in a 2-2 tie and Hungary was eliminated from UEFA EURO 2020.
Munich Stadium: Previously on Towleroad
Photo courtesy of Twitt