Europe’s soccer bosses look ridiculous. At the start of the week, the UEFA was investigating Germany’s captain for wearing a Pride armband, and by Wednesday, it was rejecting Munich’s bid to light up its stadium in rainbow colors for Germany’s championship tournament match against Hungary.
But they didn’t get away with it. Other stadiums across Germany were illuminated in the Pride colors for the match, and fans showed up in their rainbow best. All told, it was an incredible show of support for LGBTQ people.
The UEFA can hide behind technicalities all it wants, but the truth is, it shunned LGBTQ people this week out of fear. The Germany national team and its fans did what European soccer was afraid to do: Stand up for our rights.
To put this story in context, one must understand the atrocious human rights situation in Hungary. President Viktor Orban, who’s moving the country towards autocratic rule, is launching an odious campaign against the LGBTQ community. The national parliament recently passed legislation by a 157-1 margin hat bans the discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools.
The draconian edict has been compared to Russia’s infamous law banning “gay propaganda.”
So, with Team Hungary set to visit Munich Wednesday, the city council came up with the idea to light up the stadium in rainbow colors. It was a brilliant plan, and most importantly, a strong show of solidarity.
But the UEFA said “no.” In an insulting statement, the organization said it “respects the rainbow,” but turned down Germany’s request to brighten its stadium with rainbow colors.
“For UEFA, the rainbow is not a political symbol,” the statement reads.
What a wild misunderstanding of history. Don’t they know Pride started as a protest?
(Oh, and the UEFA also turned its Twitter avatar rainbow. Talk about an empty gesture.)
The UEFA had two choices to make: Allow Germany to light up its stadium in support of human rights, or don’t. The UEFA chose the latter, and as a result, sided with bigots.
They wanted Allianz Arena to be a safe space for Viktor Orban.
Thankfully, the Germany national team and its fans didn't fall in line. Around 20,000 rainbow-colored flags were distributed at the stadium ahead of the game, according to CNN, and major German businesses turned their symbols rainbow as well.
During the Hungarian national anthem, a fan stormed the field carrying the rainbow flag. It was an awesome act of defiance.
Since UEFA rejected the request to light up the #AllianzArena over 40 clubs have lit up their stadium, thousands of flags were handed out at the match tonight and the movement keeps growing. I’ve never seen such a big celebration of Pride in sport, it’s amazing #GERHUN #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/jXtJXSEogI— Tom Knight (@TJ_Knight) June 23, 2021
The protests caused Orban to cancel his trip to Munich for the game. Apparently, the strongman couldn't take the heat.
As an added bonus, Germany captain and goalie Manuel Neuer wore his armband for the contest. The match ended 2-2, but a late goal propelled Germany to the next round. Hungary was eliminated.
And now, the UEFA has a lot of explaining to do. Acquiescing to homophobic dictators is not a good look, and one horrible way to celebrate Pride month.