European football governing body UEFA found itself on the defensive over diversity ahead of the Euro 2020 match between Germany and Hungary on Wednesday.
UEFA declined the request, citing its “political context.” But opposition to that decision snowballed ahead of the game.
“It’s true, the football pitch is not about politics. It’s about people, about fairness, about tolerance,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas tweeted on Wednesday.
“That’s why UEFA is sending the wrong signal. But fortunately you can still show your colors today — in the stadium and outside #loveislove.”
Around 20,000 rainbow-colored flags were distributed at the Allianz Arena ahead of the game, while many spectators attending the match dressed in rainbow-colored clothes. Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer also wore a rainbow armband for the game.
Then as the players of Hungary sang the national anthem before kickoff, a pitch invader with a rainbow flag ran onto the pitch.
Across Germany, football clubs also illuminated their home grounds in rainbow colors during the game, which ended in a 2-2 draw. The outside of Munich’s city hall, meanwhile, was decorated in rainbow flags.
On Twitter, France forward Antoine Griezmann had posted a photo of the Allianz Arena with its rainbow lights on prior to the game, and German businesses — such as BMW, Siemens and Sparkasse — changed their logos to rainbow colors.
Hungary twice led in the match as Germany teetered on the brink of exiting Euro 2020, but substitute Leon Goretzka’s 84th minute goal secured a point for Joachim Löw’s team. Germany will now play England at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday in the last 16 round.
The response to the decision not to light up the Allianz Arena in rainbow colors prompted UEFA to defend its position, while also incorporating rainbow colors into its social media logos.
“Some people have interpreted UEFA’s decision to turn down the city of Munich’s request to illuminate the Munich stadium in rainbow colors for a Euro 2020 match as ‘political,'” UEFA said in a statement on Wednesday.
“On the contrary, the request itself was political, linked to the Hungarian football team’s presence in the stadium for this evening’s match with Germany.
“For UEFA, the rainbow is not a political symbol, but a sign of our firm commitment to a more diverse and inclusive society. #Equalgame #Euro2020.”
As for Hungary, its Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that “German politicians” should accept the decision not to illuminate the stadium.
“It is not the state’s job to decide whether to paint the stadium in Munich, or any other stadium, in rainbow colors,” he told German news agency DPA.
Orban added: “While homosexual people were persecuted in Hungary under the communist leadership, today the state does not only guarantee their freedoms but also actively protects their rights.”
The new legislation in Hungary, which was passed last week, bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change. It has been widely criticized by human rights groups and opposition parties.