We should encourage behavior that UEFA discourages – Annenberg Media
The 91st minute is a chronicle by Sam Reno on professional football.
The final day of the UEFA European Championship group stages on Wednesday was crazy, with the Group F table constantly reorganizing throughout the matches. However, the drama of the match between Germany and Hungary spread far beyond the pitch, reaching UEFA’s decision-makers office.
It’s no secret, as I’ve even discussed before in this column, that UEFA either failed to act or dealt so poorly with human issues such as the one that showed up at the over the past week.
Last week, the Hungarian parliament passed a law banning children’s content that includes the “promotion” of homosexuality and gender shift, comparing homosexuality to pedophilia. This is in addition to last year’s virtual adoption ban for potential same-sex parents and the constitutional idea that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
UEFA, like many other major sporting governing bodies around the world, has long-standing rules that prohibit athletes from expressing political messages during their competitions.
We now move on to Saturday, where Germany and Portugal played their group stage game at the Allianz Arena in Munich, a place we will return to in a minute. Manuel Neuer, one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, led his German side on the pitch donning the captain’s armband as he has done for his country since 2018.
What then was the significance of the armband? Neuer, with the support of the DFB (the German Football Association), has chosen to wear a rainbow-colored armband as a sign of support for the LGBTQ + community during Pride Month.
Such displays are not that uncommon in sports, as we’ve seen anything from corner flags and jerseys to those same armbands with the rainbow design in similar advocacy displays.
This is where UEFA chose to step in, launching an investigation into both Neuer and the DFB to determine whether wearing the armband was in violation of the rules. While the investigation ultimately concluded that no sanctions should be imposed, the decision to investigate in the first place was certainly an interesting one on UEFA’s part.
That brings us to Wednesday, when Euro group stage action returned to the Allianz Arena with Hungary coming in to face the Germans. The stakes on the pitch were huge, with the winner qualifying for knockouts and the loser likely coming out of the tournament.
However, another battle loomed off the pitch, as Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter expressed his desire for the iconic lights of the Allianz Arena to be lit in a rainbow in protest against recent Hungarian legislation.
The request was, as one would expect, rejected by UEFA, as they claimed that the organization’s political and religious neutrality left them no choice but to refuse the lighting. The decision, of course, was welcomed by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who claimed that “mixing politics and sport” was “harmful and dangerous”.
If mixing politics and sport really is as dangerous as Szijjarto thinks, then why doesn’t he dispute that his fans are holding homophobic banners and participating in incredibly racist chants against the players?
However, the idea of fundamental human rights, of course, should not be confused with a political forum. There is no room for debate when we deal with the freedoms of those who are actively discriminated against.
Szijjarto, and many others who profess a similar sentiment, have no problem with politics in sports until they start to question their unacceptable and harmful societal views. A luminous display that shows support for the millions of people around the world whose very identities are scrutinized daily is where they draw the line.
John Amaechi said it best on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz,” during a segment on Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, who recently publicly stated that personal identity is the thing. most precious and sacred that exists.
Any attempt to banish that identity is nothing less than a despicable act, and certainly one that UEFA should feel it is unable to defend. It is simply inexcusable that they choose to act in a way that protects those who have chosen to make the lives of others worse.
The discriminatory legislation of the Hungarian parliament bled into the passions of their national team supporters, who then brought this infamous hatred into Euro stadiums.
UEFA’s decision to refuse Munich’s light display of support is active protection of the archaic feelings of these supporters. UEFA has chosen to be stronger against those who have chosen to act in the name of acceptance than the same supporters who have brought their prejudices to the stadiums.
Love and compassion, despite UEFA’s best attempts, shone again in Wednesday’s game. German midfielder Leon Goretzka scored the equalizer in the 84th minute to end Hungary’s underdog campaign at Euro. In an act of pure poetic justice, Goretzka celebrated by forming a heart with her hands that appeared to be aimed at a group of Hungarian fans seen holding homophobic signs and banners.
While the Allianz Arena may not have been lit up on Wednesday night, the message from Munich, the DFB and the players has been heard loud and clear, and it is time for UEFA to stand up for the love rather than protection from discrimination.