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Germany turns rainbow-coloured in Hungary protest as Uefa president blasts 'populist' initiative

While European football’s governing body blocked plans in Munich, Dublin’s Aviva Stadium will light up tonight in solidarity with the LGBTI+ community.

Munich has equipped its city hall with huge rainbow flags in response to its dispute with Uefa.
Munich has equipped its city hall with huge rainbow flags in response to its dispute with Uefa.
Image: Imago/PA Images

Updated Jun 23rd 2021, 3:24 PM

GERMANY WILL STAGE a defiant display of rainbows on Wednesday after Uefa blocked plans to light Munich’s stadium in rainbow colours in protest against Hungary’s anti-LGBTI+ law, with the foreign minister slamming the European football body’s decision as “wrong”.

In the escalating political row over Hungary’s passing last week of a law banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen also weighed in from Brussels, slamming Budapest’s move as a disgrace.

Budapest meanwhile hit back, praising Uefa for taking a stance against “provocation”, while stadia across the country prepared to light up in national colours in a tit-for-tat display during Germany’s Euro 2020 match with Hungary.

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin says the footballing body could not give in to “populist” requests from politicians, as he defended the decision.

Uefa cannot be used as a tool by politicians,” Ceferin told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper after Munich’s mayor had made the rainbow request.

“We don’t want to be used in populist actions,” Ceferin said, while insisting that “Uefa is not a homophobic organisation”.

The two countries are due to play later Wednesday at the Allianz Arena in Munich, whose city authorities had planned to light the stadium up in rainbow colours to “send a visible sign of solidarity” with Hungary’s LGBTI+ community.

But Uefa refused the request, insisting it must remain a “politically and religiously neutral organisation”.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas criticised the move, tweeting: “It’s true, the football pitch is not about politics. It’s about people, about fairness, about tolerance. That’s why @UEFA is sending the wrong signal.”

Vowing defiance, Munich was planning to put up rainbow-coloured flags at its town hall and illuminate a huge wind turbine close to the stadium, as well as the city’s 291-metre (955-foot) Olympic Tower.

Other stadiums across Germany were also planning rainbow light displays, including Berlin’s iconic Olympic Stadium, as well as Bundesliga stadiums in Cologne, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg.

German newspapers, such as the Sueddeutsche zeitung, displayed rainbows on their front pages, while Bavarian industrial giants such as Siemens and BMW also decked themselves in rainbow colours on Twitter.

The Aviva Stadium in Dublin, which is not hosting games during Euro 2020, will also turn rainbow-coloured tonight in solidarity with the LGBTI+ community.

In Brussels, Von der Leyen said the Hungarian bill “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. And it goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union”.

Uefa’s refusal to allow Munich to send its message of solidarity also drew condemnation from football personalities across Europe, as well as from Germany’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.

“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,” said Munich mayor Dieter Reiter.

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Germany head coach Joachim Loew said he “would have been happy” if the stadium was lit in rainbow colours.

Markus Ulrich, a spokesman for Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD), told AFP subsidiary SID that Uefa had “not recognised the signs of the times — and it is clear to see which side it is taking with its decision”.

However, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hailed Uefa’s decision as correct.

“The leadership of Uefa made the right decision by not assisting in a political provocation against Hungary,” Szijjarto told AFP.

The interim president of the German FA also backed European football’s governing body.

“It is no longer a mere statement in the common fight against any form of discrimination, but a political action,” said Rainer Koch, who also sits on Uefa’s Executive Committee.

© – AFP, 2021

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