EU chief Ursula von der Leyen slammed as a disgrace the law passed by Viktor Orban’s government banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors, while Germany’s foreign minister called UEFA’s decision the “wrong signal”.
With Germany due to play Hungary on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena in Munich, city authorities had planned to light the stadium up in rainbow colours to “send a visible sign of solidarity” with Hungary’s LGBTQ community.
With criticism building, UEFA defended its decision but added the rainbow to its logo.
In a statement, European football’s governing body said it “is proud to wear the colours of the rainbow”, a symbol for the LGBTQ community, but stood by its decision by saying the city of Munich’s request to illuminate the stadium was “political”.
Budapest praised UEFA for taking a stance against “provocation”, with stadia across the country preparing to light up in national colours in a tit-for-tat display during the Germany-Hungary Euro 2020 match.
In Germany meanwhile, businesses and individuals made a show of their opposition to UEFA and Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ stance, decking themselves in rainbow colours while many stadia were planning rainbow light displays.
Orban has been at loggerheads with many Western EU nations over his stance on issues from immigration to press freedom. Hungary has also recently refused to sign up to joint EU foreign policy statements on Israel or Hong Kong, sparking frustration within the bloc.
Fifteen of the EU’s member states have signed up to voice their “grave concern” at the LGBTQ law that Budapest argues will protect children.
“This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. And it goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union,” von der Leyen told a media conference in Brussels.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meanwhile criticised UEFA’s refusal to allow Munich to make a stand over the issue.
“It’s true, the football pitch is not about politics. It’s about people, about fairness, about tolerance. That’s why @UEFA is sending the wrong signal.”
In France, a senior official said the presidency “deeply regrets” the decision, adding that although UEFA is “religiously neutral and apolitical”, it “has values” and should show solidarity with Hungarians.
Vowing defiance, Munich was planning to put up rainbow-coloured flags at its town hall and illuminate a huge wind turbine close to the stadium, as well as the city’s 291-metre (955-foot) Olympic Tower.
“I find it shameful that UEFA forbids us to send a sign for cosmopolitanism, tolerance, respect and solidarity with the people of the LGBT community,” said Munich mayor Dieter Reiter.
Other stadiums across Germany were also planning rainbow light displays, including Berlin’s iconic Olympic Stadium, as well as Bundesliga stadiums in Cologne, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg.
German newspapers, such as the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, displayed rainbows on their front pages, while Bavarian industrial giants such as Siemens and BMW also decked themselves in rainbow colours on Twitter.
Germany head coach Joachim Loew said he “would have been happy” if the stadium had been lit in rainbow colours.
Markus Ulrich, a spokesman for Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD), told AFP subsidiary SID that UEFA had “not recognised the signs of the times — and it is clear to see which side it is taking with its decision”.
However, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hailed UEFA’s decision as correct.
“The leadership of UEFA made the right decision by not assisting in a political provocation against Hungary,” Szijjarto told AFP.
The interim president of the German FA also backed European football’s governing body.
“It is no longer a mere statement in the common fight against any form of discrimination, but a political action,” said Rainer Koch, who also sits on UEFA’s Executive Committee.