'Shameful' rainbow ban sparks incredible Euro 2020 protests

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A rainbow coloured corner flag is seen here at a German football stadium.
Germany is at the centre of a stunning revolt after UEFA's rainbow ban. Pic: Getty

Cities across Germany have staged a stunning revolt after UEFA banned Munich from lighting the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours for the country's final Euro 2020 group game against Hungary.

The Germans could face a potential round of 16 clash against old rivals England, who clinched top spot in Group D with a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday (AEST).

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Reacting to the rainbow ban, Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter slammed UEFA's decision and announced plans to decorate other city landmarks in rainbow colours in defiance.

"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," he said.

In explaining its ban, European football's governing body said it was not the organisation's place to affiliate itself with any social or political movements.

"UEFA is a politically and religiously neutral organisation," European football's governing body said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's match.

"Given the political context of this request - a message aimed at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament - UEFA must refuse."

Hungary's right-wing government last week passed a law banning the "promotion" of homosexuality to minors, outlawing any educational programmes or material in which homosexuality is mentioned.

Reiter had wanted the Allianz Arena - owned by Bayern Munich, but rented to UEFA for Euro 2020 - in rainbow colours for the crucial Group F match to "send a visible sign of solidarity" with Hungary's LGBT community.

He plans to put up rainbow-coloured flags at the Munich town hall and illuminate a huge wind turbine close to the stadium, as well as the city's 291-metre (955-foot) Olympic Tower.

Pictured here, Munich's Allianz Arena glows in rainbow coloured lighting.
Munich's Allianz Arena was set to be lit up in rainbow colours for Germany's game against Hungary. Pic: Getty

Germany head coach Joachim Loew "would have been happy" if the stadium was lit in rainbow colours and said support of diversity in our society must be "lived".

His opposite number, Italian coach Marco Rossi, said while such "political matters" are rarely discussed in the Hungarian squad, "we have always shown through our behaviour we respect everyone and everything".

Germany defender Mats Hummels says that "as long as the issues are discussed in public, it's good".

"A player (Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib) has just come out in the NFL. That is long overdue. It shouldn't be a big deal," added Hummels.

Backlash from the LGBTI community

UEFA's stance drew criticism from Germany's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.

"We find it very disconcerting how UEFA deals with values that should generally be accepted in society," Markus Ulrich, a spokesman for Germany's Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD), told AFP subsidiary SID.

"UEFA has not recognised the signs of the times - and it is clear to see which side it is taking with its decision."

Former England captain Gary Lineker said he was in favour of seeing the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours.

"Do it, Munich. Do it. Light it up for the world to see. Ah, just do it anyway," Lineker wrote on Twitter.

Seen here, a building in Germany is lit up in rainbow colours.
Other landmarks across Germany will be decorated in rainbow colours in protest at UEFA's ban. Pic: Getty

While the Allianz Arena will not be lit in rainbow colours this week, other football stadiums in Germany will.

Berlin's iconic Olympic Stadium, as well as Bundesliga stadiums in Cologne, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg all plan to be colourfully lit.

However, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hailed UEFA's "right decision".

"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.

with agencies

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