Make no mistake, UEFA's pathetic Allianz decision sides with the oppressor
Far from being the apolitical stance they claim it is, UEFA's decision to prevent the Allianz Arena from being lit up with the rainbow flag is an explicit taking of sides
On Tuesday, May 25 UEFA announced the launch of the Equal Game campaign, featuring six high profile ambassadors from the men's and women's game, aimed at "encouraging fans, players, clubs, national associations and other football stakeholders to join the fight against discrimination", according to UEFA's website.
In a statement from Aleksander Čeferin accompanying the launch, UEFA's president said: "It is inspiring to see a younger generation of top footballers using their influence to stand up, tackle discrimination and educate and inspire others. We feel strongly committed to this cause and have chosen the global reach of EURO 2020 to maximise the impact of this campaign."
Weeks later, European football's governing body has rejected an application to light up Munich's Allianz Arena with the rainbow flag ahead of Germany's final group game against Hungary.
Unsurprisingly, the absolutely ridiculous decision to review the armband has been called offhttps://t.co/4LHzJWo6uI
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) June 20, 2021
For context, earlier this month, Hungary's far-right government led by Victor Orban introduced new anti-LGBTQ+ laws which would prevent any teaching about same-sex relationships in schools, and stop queer content from being shown on TV aimed towards kids.
Compared to Russia's 2013 'gay propaganda' law, it was passed by 157 votes to one and is the latest in the ruling party's assault on the country's LGBTQ community.
That law, Human Rights Watch says, has had a "stifling effect on access to affirming education and support services, with harmful consequences for LGBT youth".
Anyone who pays even the slightest bit of attention to football's governing bodies and the way they operate is aware that they have always attempted to have their feet in the camps of both progressivism and traditionalism.
This is a byproduct of attempting to grow the game outside of Europe, as part of football's manifest destiny to continually find and expand within emerging markets across the world.
They must cater to audiences in countries with progressive and actually equal laws for LGBTQ+ people, while also attempting not to alienate audiences in countries where rights are limited, or even non-existent.
It is immoral, there's no question about that. But UEFA and FIFA have always been immoral.
A cowardly and disgraceful decision from UEFA, an organisation which claims to support equality while cozying up to anti-LGBTQ politicians https://t.co/mYzXD2Vjbl
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) June 22, 2021
Most of the time, though, it is not quite as brazen as it has been in relation to their decision on Tuesday morning to prevent the Allianz from being lit up as a gesture of support to queer people around the world.
UEFA briefly showed their true colours on Sunday, when it was revealed that they had initiated an investigation into the German football federation (DFB) and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, over his decision to wear a rainbow captain's armband during his nation's match against Portugal.
They quickly stopped the investigation, presumably sensing the tidal wave of criticism that was on its way, but less than a day later, are at it again.
Make no mistake, the impact of their decision could be far-reaching, and shows the impossibility of 'playing both sides' when it comes to an issue as black and white as the right to live one's life as you wish, and to love who you love without fear of persecution from authorities.
If UEFA deemed the proposed rainbow display as political, then what do they make of the displays from some Hungary fans during their opening game against Portugal, when banners celebrating the anti-LGBTQ+ laws were unfurled?
What, one wonders, does UEFA make of the wall of black t-shirts seen at every game in Budapest - black t-shirts commonly associated with the Carpathian Brigade; a group of hooligans who regularly chant racist, homophobic and sexist diatribe before games and from the stands?
A reminder that the Carpathian Brigade - the #HUN ultras group dressed in black tops behind the goal regularly praised by casual observers for their atmosphere - have a history of racist chanting against black, Gypsy and Jewish communities and regularly display the Nazi salute.
— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) June 19, 2021
UEFA turns a blind eye to much of this under the guise of being an apolitical organisation, all while its president gets cozy with the man who is the current figure head of this wave of thinking in the country, Viktor Orban.
The organisation's desire to "tackle discrimination", it seems, only pertains to hypothetical situations, or only involves nations whose federations Čeferin doesn't feel the need to keep onside.
How else can you explain UEFA's decisions to award Budapest quite so many Euros games at a time of enormous clampdowns on civil liberties? How else can you rationalise the Ferenc Puskas stadium being handed 2023's Europa League final?
For many, one suspects, this latest abandonment of their supposed progressive ideals will be a looking glass moment when it comes to UEFA.
The desire to show support for marginalised peoples at a time when their few rights are being restricted is not a political act, but to prevent it is.
For all their talk of equality and an 'equal game', UEFA has chosen to take sides with an openly, and brazen, far-right government.
It's a betrayal that should not be forgotten.