Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has canceled a trip to Munich for the Euro 2020 soccer match between Hungary and Germany in response to numerous criticisms from his government over anti-LGBTQ + legislation passed last week.
Orbán made the announcement hours after European football’s governing body UEFA rejected a request by Munich city council to light up the Allianz Arena in rainbow colors in solidarity with the LGBTQ + community, especially in Hungary.
UEFA’s decision sparked backlash in Germany and Europe. Football clubs in cities like Cologne, Frankfurt and Berlin have announced plans to light their own stadiums in rainbow colors to ‘fill the void’, while Munich fire organizations at the rail network National, Deutsche Bahn, tweeted messages of support for LGBTQ + activists. Deutsche Bahn painted one of its trains with rainbow stripes.
Juventus and Barcelona were among other European football clubs to show their support.
UEFA defended its decision, saying such action would violate its rules as a politically neutral organization. But days earlier, he had ruled that German team captain Manuel Neuer had not broken those rules by wearing a rainbow armband. A far-right German politician sparked outrage after calling him a “queer armband”.
Orbán, whose government has passed a law banning homosexuals from appearing in school teaching materials or television shows for those under 18, called on the German government to respect the UEFA ban. “Whether the Munich football stadium or another European stadium lights up in the colors of the rainbow is not a decision of the state,” he told the agency german press release dpa.
Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter on Tuesday called UEFA’s decision “shameful” and said a wind turbine across the highway from the Allianz Arena would be lit in the colors of the Rainbow.
German parliament deputy Claudia Roth accused UEFA of “trying to define the social and political role of sport and sporting events, like autocratic strongmen”. She said UEFA was undermining its own campaigns against racism and homophobia by rejecting Munich’s request.
“What values will be left to UEFA’s campaigns against racism or homophobia in the future?” She said, arguing that the governing body could “lose all credibility.”
She said it was “absurd” for UEFA to allow Neuer to continue to wear his rainbow armband while banning rainbow illuminations.
Bild, Germany’s most widely read newspaper, said UEFA was “playing into the hands of the homophobes” around the world. The tabloid accused the governing body of hypocrisy for claiming it was politically neutral while being dependent on advertising revenue from Gazprom and Qatar Airways, state-run companies in which, it said, LGBTQ + rights are virtually non-existent.
Former German footballer and official Katja Kraus and Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pistorius said in a joint statement to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung: “UEFA seems, very sadly, to have caved in to Viktor Orbán. “
Georginio Wijnaldum, the captain of the Dutch national team, said he would wear a rainbow armband similar to Neuer’s and bearing the slogan ‘one love’ during their round of 16 match in Budapest on 27 June. The Dutch first wore shirts with the same slogan last year in a warm-up before a friendly against Spain.
Balázs Hidvéghi, member of the European Parliament and former spokesperson for Orbán’s ruling party, Fidesz, accused German officials of trying to force ideological debates over a sporting event, arguing that the law in question concerned the protection of children. He denied accusations that Orbán’s government was fueling homophobia.
“We are ready to debate the law with those who have spoken out against it,” he told the BBC on Tuesday. “The law is strictly about the protection of children. He says that for minors under the age of 18, sex education must be appropriate and what we don’t want is the intrusion of so-called LGBTQ + lobbying NGOs and pressure groups that enter into them. kindergartens and schools to explain to children why it is a good idea to have hormonal treatments and sex reassignment surgeries before the age of 18. These are not acceptable practices.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that legal action would be taken against Hungary, calling the new law “shameful” and arguing that it went against EU values, after 14 countries issued a joint statement expressing “grave concern”. .