If the whole Super League debacle put people in the very awkward and uncomfortable position of having to side with UEFA, they can feel assured that UEFA was always going to do everything it could to squander that capital. It didn’t take them long.
UEFA has opened an investigation into Manuel Neuer’s rainbow captain’s armband, as it violates UEFA’s policy of no political statements on the field. Which is truly rich, especially as this is Pride Month, and seemingly no one should have a problem with what Neuer is doing. The German FA could face a fine.
It is particularly jarring and incomprehensible, as UEFA announced on the same day that it would be investigating happenings in Budapest during the tournament. While coverage of games to take place in the Hungarian capital have only focused on the joys of seeing a full stadium and the atmosphere that has come with it, that is the most surface-level look.
A group of black-shirted ultras, the “Carpathian Brigade,” marched to the stadium yesterday carrying anti-kneeling banners. Racist chants were heard toward French players. Anti-LGBTQ+ banners were displayed and songs sung in the stands. Fascists salutes were also seen. So that atmosphere that had so many commentators so weak in the knees actually contained a fair amount of poison. Hungary of late has been a bastion for far-right groups, making it more and more curious that UEFA was in such a hurry to have Euro 2020 games hosted there.
Hungary, the country, just passed sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ legislation this week, which again raises the question of just how such a place got to host games (but then, Russia got to host a whole World Cup, so we know how this goes). Even MLB got it together to move the All-Star Game for legislation passed in that location. And before UEFA would say anything about the timing of it, remember that they moved Champions League games to neutral sites with only a week or two of lead time.
While it’s nice, in the most passive definition of that very passive word, that UEFA is looking into what went on in Budapest, the fact that those outwardly hateful gestures and Neuer’s of support are being treated the same — and don’t be surprised if they’re punished the same — certainly looks way off. UEFA will try to hide behind them both being a violation of their rules and not taking a side, but does UEFA really want to look like it’s treating the two of the same? One would hope not.
These two sides very well may come to a head later this week when Hungary play Germany in Munich. In response to Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, German officials have proposed lighting up Munich’s Aliianz Arena in rainbow colors in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Whatever traveling fans from Hungary arrive in Germany will certainly be an interesting watch for UEFA, whatever colors the stadium is awash in.
UEFA hasn’t stepped into the matter of England players kneeling before their games, which has had its own issues of late, which makes it strange that Neuer’s armband drew their attention. UEFA certainly doesn’t have to pick and choose which maligned and oppressed group is ok for support on the field and which isn’t. And yet it seems like it wants to.
(insert clown emojis)