Uefa draws criticism after opposing plans to light up Allianz Arena in rainbow colours

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The Allianz Arena illuminated in rainbow colours after the German first division Bundesliga football match FC Bayern Munich v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in Munich - ANDREAS GEBERT/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
The Allianz Arena illuminated in rainbow colours after the German first division Bundesliga football match FC Bayern Munich v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in Munich - ANDREAS GEBERT/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Key landmarks close to the Allianz Arena will be lit up in rainbow colours for Germany’s European Championship match against Hungary on Wednesday amid a backlash against Uefa’s refusal to permit a similar display at the stadium.

The homes of other German clubs were set to light up their own stadiums in solidarity, while LGBTIQ organisations planned to hand out 11,000 rainbow flags outside the Munich ground as the city’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, condemned the “shameful” decision by European football’s governing body – which was even criticised by its own anti-discrimination partner.

Reiter had sought permission to light up the Allianz Arena in response to the Hungarian parliament last week outlawing the sharing of information considered to promote homosexuality or non-binary gender identities among under-18s.

“I find it shameful that Uefa forbids us to send a sign for cosmopolitanism, tolerance, respect and solidarity with the people of the LGBTIQ community,” he said.

Reiter said he planned to put up rainbow-coloured flags at the Munich town hall and illuminate a huge wind turbine located close to the stadium and other locations.

Budapest Pride added: “Munich LGBTQ organisations are preparing for the German-Hungary match on Wednesday with a huge action, they will hand out 11,000 rainbow flags in and around the stadium.”

That was after Uefa said: “Uefa, through its statutes, is a politically and religiously neutral organisation. Given the political context of this specific request – a message aiming at a decision taken by Hungarian national parliament – Uefa must decline this request.”

 Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer walks on the pitch during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group F match between Portugal and Germany at the Football Arena stadium in Munich, Germany, Saturday, June 19, 2021 - Philipp Guelland/Pool via AP
Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer walks on the pitch during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group F match between Portugal and Germany at the Football Arena stadium in Munich, Germany, Saturday, June 19, 2021 - Philipp Guelland/Pool via AP

Piara Powar, executive director of the FARE Network, which partners with Uefa in its anti-discrimination work, told the Daily Telegraph Uefa had failed to consider the “human rights” implications of its decision, adding: “The Uefa argument has some holes in it, quite frankly.”

But Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said: “Thank God that, in the circles of European football leadership, common sense still prevails and they did not play along with the political provocation.”

Uefa made the decision despite having previously ruled Germany would face no action over captain Manuel Neuer’s wearing of a rainbow armband during Euro 2020 games because he had been “promoting a good cause, i.e. diversity”.

An ethics and disciplinary inspector was also appointed to investigate homophobic banners during Hungary’s 3-0 defeat by Portugal last Tuesday, the day the Hungarian parliament passed its draconian legislation.

In its statement, Uefa suggested alternative dates to light up the Allianz Arena during the tournament, including at Christopher Street Day events held in memory of an uprising by homosexuals in New York in 1969.

Speaking at press conferences to preview Wednesday's game, Germany manager Joachim Low said he would have been “happy” for the stadium to be lit up, while defender Mats Hummels – who wore a ‘Love Unites’ T-shirt – said: “I’m a supporter of messages like this to the world.”

But Hungary’s former Liverpool goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, who plays at RB Leipzig and has previously come under attack in his homeland for expressing solidarity for “rainbow families”, refused to be drawn on the row.

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