July 26, 2021

How UEFA got its feet in the carpet over Munich stadium lighting

The Germany-Hungary match (2-2) took place under high tension on Wednesday 23 June, and not just for sporting reasons. The day before, UEFA had confirmed its decision not to allow the Allianz Arena, the stadium in Munich, to be lit in the colors of the rainbow, a symbol of the fight for the rights of the LGBT community. This choice which sparked a heated controversy across Europe. Cramped to its status as an apolitical organization, the European football body found itself in an uncomfortable position by appearing to agree with Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, who voted in early June a measure prohibiting “The promotion of homosexuality and gender change among minors” as part of a series of laws against child crime.

“Anxious to avoid a controversy, UEFA decided to kick in touch, claiming not to play politics. But it is impossible because sport, and more particularly football, have become deeply political ”, observes Jean-Baptiste Guégan, teacher in history-geography and geopolitics of sport. However, if this case has grown, it is also because players have taken a stand, Antoine Griezmann the first. The French player posted a tweet sharply criticizing UEFA’s decision. And the scenario that players who want to be allowed to wear a rainbow armband during matches is looming. One way for UEFA to ease tensions. Manuel Neuer, the German captain, is already doing it and she hasn’t said anything to him.

Read also the editorial of the “World”: The rule of law, better protection for LGBT rights in Europe

The tensions within UEFA are nothing new. Composed of 55 national federations, the organization constantly makes the big difference between the countries which compose it, with sometimes very different views. “While most have converging positions against racism, this is not the case in the fight against homophobia, a fight in which countries like Russia, Hungary, Poland and, to a lesser extent, the Italy, do not adhere or little “, analyzes the academic Lukas Aubin, specialist in Russia and sport. UEFA has always sought a point of balance between its members, but this position seems increasingly untenable, as Hungary deliberately uses the Euro for political ends.

“Orban knew perfectly well what he was doing”

“By passing a law of a homophobic nature just before the start of such a media competition, while Hungary is one of the organizing countries, Viktor Orban knew perfectly well what he was doing », Estimates Mr. Aubin. For this researcher, Hungary imitates Russia, which had passed a similar law a month before the Olympic Games in Sochi, in 2014. Like Vladimir Poutine, Viktor Orban wants to appear as the one who defends the values ​​of a traditional model of society, supposedly threatened by globalization and the influence of Western countries. In this sense, the proposal of the Social Democratic mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, to adorn the Allianz Arena in the colors of the rainbow, was a boon for the populist leader, especially since it received support from the German government and the European Commission.

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