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
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 LGBTQ 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.”
Es stimmt, auf dem Fußballplatz geht’s nicht um Politik. Es geht um Menschen, um Fairness, um Toleranz. Deshalb sendet die @UEFA das falsche Signal. Aber man kann heute ja zum Glück trotzdem Farbe bekennen – im Stadion und außerhalb😉. #loveislove #MuenchenMachEsTrotzdem https://t.co/hgQkc51UHp
— Heiko Maas 🇪🇺 (@HeikoMaas) June 23, 2021
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 Süddeutsche zeitung, displayed rainbows on their front pages, while Bavarian industrial giants such as Siemens and BMW also decked themselves in rainbow colours on Twitter.
‘Against European values’
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.
Germany head coach Joachim Löw 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.
By Yann SCHREIBER with Femke COLBORNE in Berlin