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Insults fly in rainbow row ahead of Germany-Hungary Euro 2020 clash

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 4, 2019 UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin walks past a sign with the UEFA logo after attending a press conference following a meeting of the executive committee at the UEFA headquarters, in Nyon, Switzerland. – UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin on June 23, 2021 said the footballing body could not give in to “populist” requests from politicians, as he defended the decision not to allow Munich’s Allianz Arena to be lit up in rainbow colours. “UEFA cannot be used as a tool by politicians,” Ceferin told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper after Munich’s mayor had made the rainbow request in protest at Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ law. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

EU leaders and Hungary traded barbs over Budapest’s anti-LGBTQ law on Wednesday, as German fans faced off against flag-toting Hungarians following UEFA’s refusal to light Munich’s Euro 2020 stadium in rainbow colours.

With Germany due to play Hungary in a key match 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.

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But UEFA refused the request and on Wednesday doubled down on its stance, sending tensions soaring on and off the pitch.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said his organisation could not give in to “populist” demands from politicians but Germany said the football body sent the “wrong message”.

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, prompting an immediate slap down from Budapest against her comments as “a shame”.

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As doors opened to the Allianz stadium, German activists wearing vests emblazoned with the logo “rainbow to go” were handing out rainbow flags to fans.

German fan Michael, 51, told AFP he would have liked to see the stadium lit up. “I don’t see it as political and I think that would have been a great signal,” he said.

But Hungary fan Csongor, 39, said the rainbow had “nothing to do with football… We feel that this is a campaign against Hungary, against the Hungarian national team, against the Hungarian government.”

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‘Against EU values‘ –
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 and 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.

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At government question time in parliament, Chancellor Angela Merkel added to critical voices including from France, saying she considered the law to be “wrong and incompatible with my understanding of politics”.

But UEFA argued that taking those views to the pitch by allowing the stadium display would be a mistake because it was “political”.

It added a rainbow to its logo and in a statement said it was “proud to wear the colours of the rainbow” but underlined its refusal of Munich’s request.

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“UEFA cannot be used as a tool by politicians,” UEFA’s Ceferin told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper. “We don’t want to be used in populist actions.”

Budapest praised UEFA for taking a stance against “provocation”, with stadia across Hungary preparing to light up in national colours in a tit-for-tat display during the Euro 2020 match.

Defiance
In a show of defiance, Munich put up six huge rainbow-coloured flags at its town hall and will illuminate a huge wind turbine close to the stadium, as well as the city’s 291-metre (955-foot) Olympic Tower.

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Other arenas across Germany were also planning rainbow light displays, including Berlin’s iconic Olympic Stadium, as well as Bundesliga venues 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.

At the stadium, German fan Madeleine, 26, said she had replaced one of the flags on her headband with a rainbow-coloured one.

“Germany must send a message — this is the best chance to do so,” she told AFP.

“They may not be able to light the arena but the fans are lighting up in its place.”

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