The rainbow drama in Baku was ‘a low point’ and ‘a disgrace to European football’

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“May I have a selfie with you?”

This is what several Azerbaijani football fans asked with big smiles when they saw my rainbow-colored captain’s armband on the VIP grandstand on Saturday before and after the quarter-final between Denmark and the Czech Republic.

‘I have a dream of getting one green card and come to the free world, “said another, who asked to have my Danish flag.

Before I flew to Baku, I had decided to take the floor of the European Football Association, UEFA, with a small gesture. Prior to the tournament, UEFA had stated that the tournament should be used as a lever to mark diversity. And where could it be more relevant to do than in Azerbaijan, as in various studies on gay rights?

Where I was greeted by smiles and selfie wishes in the VIP grandstand, the situation was fundamentally different on the other side of the half-empty Olympic Stadium near the Caspian Sea. When calm Kristoffer Føns raised his rainbow-colored flag, two local stewards came up to him: “One very close. He does not say anything, but he just pulls the flag. I’m trying to say no. But he just pulls further in the flag, “Kristoffer Føns has since explained to several media.

UEFA: Roligan was “violently intoxicated”

After the match, UEFA quickly announced its passing: The association has never instructed stewards in Baku or any of the other 10 host cities to confiscate rainbow flags. UEFA will now investigate the matter thoroughly, but added that their “immediate information” was, “that the fan in question was heavily intoxicated and that some local fans became aggressive towards him,” UEFA writes in a press release.

That Kristoffer Føns should be “violently intoxicated” is not, however, an interpretation that DBU can recognize.

The case quickly went viral, which is due to the fact that it lies in the slipstream of an increasingly long strip of rainbow stories during this European Championship. First, UEFA chose to launch a major anti-homophobia campaign before the European Championships. After Germany’s national team goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had played with a rainbow-colored captain’s armband, UEFA initially announced that the captain’s armband would be examined to see if it was within the federation’s code of rules. However, Neuer was allowed to keep the bandage on until Germany smoked out to England.

This was followed by a turbulent discussion about whether the board in Munich had to let the Allianz Arena light up in the colors of the rainbow before the group match between Germany and Hungary. The city council’s errand was to protest against it precisely. Precisely the link to a particular law in another country was the explanation why UEFA turned its thumb down. Later, however, it emerged that the German Football Association, DFB, already in May, completely detached from the Hungarian gay law, had refused to light up the Allianz Arena on a day when no match was to be played.

No to rainbow-colored commercials

The last part of the saga, before the Danish rainbow flag in Baku, was UEFA’s refusal to let the tournament’s sponsors color their banner ads with the colors of the rainbow in all 11 host cities. In Baku and Skt. Petersburg was one no-go due to ‘UEFA’s concern about the legal framework for arenas.’. In short: UEFA was unsure whether the advertising was within the scope of local law.

Several point out that this decision must be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to economic interests. The desire to subordinate the consideration of diversity to UEFA’s economy was already received last week by Germany’s Conservative Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, to danger in flint, when UEFA said no to Munich City Council:

»State-owned companies from China, Qatar and Russia are important sponsors of the European Championships and UEFA. These authoritarian states have serious problems with the rights of women, homosexuals and dissidents. All that obviously does not generate UEFA, but it obviously does the rainbow colors as the symbol of freedom and diversity? “

The fan network “Football Supporters Europe” (FSE) condemns the episode with the Danish rainbow flag in Baku and describes it as “a gross violation of UEFA’s rules for the tournament”.

According to the German weekly magazine “The star” the confiscation of the flag ‘is a low point at this European Championship – and a disgrace to European football’.

The many cases have undoubtedly weakened UEFA’s reputation considerably and open up a principled discussion about next year’s World Cup in Qatar: How does the International Football Association, FIFA, react if fans roll a rainbow flag out of the stadium or wear a rainbow-colored captain’s armband?

Lykke Friis is Berlingske’s regular commentator during the European Championships in football. Fold up

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Photo: Niels Ahlmann Olesen / Berlingske.

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