The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has rejected the request of the Allianz Arena in Munich to be lit up with the colors of the rainbow for its Hungary-Germany football match on Wednesday evening, Bild reports. Various European officials and football clubs oppose the non-involvement, but Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó praised the organization for its decision “not to assist in the political provocation against Hungary.”
The use of the rainbow flag on the Allianz Arena had been brought up after the Hungarian National Assembly passed its controversial “anti-pedophile” bill which includes legislation on “promoting or displaying homosexuality” in media as well.
Hungarians opposing the bill initiated an online petition to illuminate the stadium of Hungary’s upcoming football match with the colors of the LGBTQ flag. News of the petition quickly spread, gaining the support of Munich, German government officials, and European Union officials.
UEFA Chooses the Road of Non-Partisanship
UEFA rejected the proposal in the interest that all stadiums of the European Championship must be lit up the same way. Players such as goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, however, have been allowed to wear the flag without being penalized.
The league emphasized in its statement that “UEFA, through its statutes, is a politically and religiously neutral organisation.” It also brought up that politics has come in the way of people who simply want to enjoy the sport.
Racism, homophobia, sexism and all forms of discrimination are a stain on our societies – and represent one of the biggest problems faced by the game today. Discriminatory behaviour has marred both matches themselves and, outside the stadiums, the online discourse around the sport we love.”
German Officials Still Wish to Send a Message
German officials have already reacted to the decision, wishing to find other ways to show their opposition to the bill. Axel Hellmann, vice president of Eintracht Frankfurt, said that if the Munich stadium is not lit up in the colors of the rainbow, the Frankfurt arena will be.
This is technically allowed since Frankfurt is not a location for the European Championship. In fact, Berlin has also announced that it will be taking part, as might Köln, according to Kicker.
Regardless of the stadium, it is almost certain that Munich’s city hall will be lit up in the colors of the rainbow. The municipality stated that
The match between the German and Hungarian national teams is an important opportunity for Munich to show its solidarity with the Hungarian LGBTQ community, which now suffers from the homophobic and transphobic legislation enacted by the Hungarian government.”
FC Barcelona Raises Rainbow Flag
Even football clubs are beginning to join the movement. FC Barcelona is openly opposed to UEFA’s decision not to allow the stadium to be lit up with the flag. On its twitter page, it shared its logo with a rainbow background.
One of the French national team’s star players, Antoine Griezmann, also showed his support with two emojis and a photo.
Bavarian PM: Rainbow Flag Is a Signal of Freedom
Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder also supported the coloring of the stadium, stating that it would be a proud way to send a “signal for the freedom of our society.”
Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová told Politico that “the rainbow is not offensive,” and that “If anyone has a problem with it, this speaks more about them, rather than about people who want to light up the stadium with it.”
Spokesperson of the German government Steffen Seibert voiced his administration’s support as well, stating that the rainbow flag “represents how we want to live — with respect for each other and without discrimination.”
While European officials advocate for the rainbow flag’s presentation on the stadium, the Hungarian government openly opposes it.
Hungarian Gov’t Does Not Support “Political Provocation”
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said that history shows the danger of mixing politics with sport, which he said the Germans must know very well.
In Hungary we accepted a law in the interest of protecting children, against which Western Europeans are now reacting.”
The Hungarian foreign minister is certain that “everyone knows what this is about,” and that the petition’s supporters are trying to push politics into the world of sports.
During a break from a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, Szijjártó told Hungarian journalists that he was glad UEFA chose “not to assist in the political provocation against Hungary.”
The foreign minister is thankful that “among UEFA leaders common sense still prevails,” despite the league openly basing its decision on non-involvement with regards to political issues.
Featured photo illustration via Allianz Arena’s Facebook page