The German football team’s decision not to kneel before kick-off against Hungary is a bad look for all involved.
Kneeling has become a powerful symbol of protest against racial inequality in the game since it was widely adopted in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in the United States.
Against England, just days ago, Germany agreed to join the visiting team in kneeling as a sign of solidarity and a reaffirmation in their belief in the cause of anti-racism. But days later in Budapest, playing against Hungary, that solidarity was nowhere to be seen.
That’s the thing with showing support for racial inequality. If you really believe in it, you can’t just do it because the opposition are doing it.
Before their game against Germany, England’s players kneeled in Budapest and were booed as a result. This England team has been steadfast in their show of support throughout the last year. But where was Germany’s when a harder test for solidarity came? Were they afraid of being jeered too?
Some might argue that shows of support like this are not that important, and when compared with more direct forms of anti-racism activism, they’d be right. But in an industry where the words and actions of individuals and organisations carry so much weight, even symbolic gestures matter.
Take last summer, when Germany played Hungary during the Euros. After Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban passed horrendous anti-LGBTQ laws, Munich wanted to light up their stadium in rainbow colors as a show of support. UEFA denied them the chance to do so, calling the decision ‘political.’
Instead, many fans showed up in, or with, rainbow colors. Germany captain Manuel Neuer wore a rainbow armband and Leon Goretzka, scorer of their late equalizer, celebrated in front of the Hungary fans by shaping his hands into a heart.
That display, off the back of a result that kept Germany in the tournament, revealed so much about the character of the team and the values it cares about.
It would have been refreshing to see those displayed again in Budapest, to see Germany not just kneel before the game but also to have worn rainbow laces or armbands. That kind of support, particularly during pride month, would have shown that Germany acknowledges that the fight for racial equality continues, that the LGBTQ+ community in Hungary still needs support, and that its players still wear their values on their sleeves.
Instead, all that’s left is a feeling of disappointment at an opportunity missed.
Edited by Ruairi Casey