The boss is aware of how challenging the task will be. “If you play slowly against such a defensive opponent, you get into trouble,” said Oliver Bierhoff before the game of the German national soccer team in the Nations League in Budapest against Hungary on Saturday (8:45 p.m., RTL).
The managing director of national teams knows that the game is not only special for sporting reasons. When England played in the Hungarian capital a week ago and the Brits got on their knees before kick-off to send a signal against racism, there were whistles from the stands. There were mostly children there.
Hungary, which had been subjected to ghost games by the world association Fifa and the European association Uefa last year because of racist and homophobic chants by its fans, had referred to Article 73 of the disciplinary code, according to which the ban does not apply to children “up to the age of 14 (with proper accompaniment) from schools and/or football schools invited to the match free of charge”.
After the recent incident against England, Uefa has faced severe criticism in recent days. Fare, the European anti-discrimination network, complained that it was not the first time that children showed the same behavior patterns as adults in a stadium. It was said that incidents of racism had been seen “committed by children at European games”.
The stadium in Budapest can be full again on Saturday, the Puskas Arena can hold 67,215 spectators. In the 1-1 draw against England last Tuesday in Munich, the German internationals got on their knees with the English before kick-off. Such an action is not planned this time, said Bierhoff.
The game brings back memories of June 23, 2021, when both teams met in Munich in the last preliminary round of the European Championship. 84 minutes have been played, the Hungarians lead 2:1. If it stayed at this score, the German team would have been eliminated. She needs a goal, she needs a point. The Hungarians can still block a shot by Timo Werner, but not Leon Goretzkas – equalizer, Germany is through.
And the jubilation in Munich big. Also with the goal scorer, who forms a heart with his fingers and demonstratively looks in the direction of the Hungarian fans. It’s a gesture, a message celebrated on social media. Goretzka writes in English on Twitter under a picture of his celebration: “Spread love. Yes!!!!!!!! Wembley is calling!” The words are accompanied by a rainbow flag – a clear sign of tolerance and solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
Goretzka’s message was based on a huge wave of solidarity that erupted in the days leading up to the game with the LGBTQ movement in Hungary, after the Hungarian government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán passed a law equating homosexuality with pedophilia while also restricting access to youth and children to educational brochures and media that present homosexuality as an accepted way of life.
As a reaction to the new law in Hungary, the city of Munich wanted to let the stadium shine in rainbow colors for the game against Hungary. Uefa rejected this on the grounds that this was an inadmissible political signal against a certain country.
This decision had brought the association severe criticism and outrage. In response to Uefa’s rejection, numerous helpers distributed thousands of rainbow flags to the fans in front of the stadium.
As the Hungarian national anthem played, a streaker dressed in a Germany jersey ran onto the pitch and presented a rainbow flag to the Hungarian internationals. During the game, some of the traveling Hungarian supporters sang “Germany, Germany, homosexual”.
A few weeks ago, in an interview with WELT AM SONNTAG, Goretzka let it be known that he was looking forward to the game in Hungary – in front of a certainly atmospheric backdrop, as he said. “And it’s also clear: My gesture of celebration in Munich was not for the fans of the Hungarian team, but for the few who made homophobic statements and used football as a platform for them.”
Saturday will be watched closely as Goretzka and his teammates are received. When the German team last played in Hungary in 2010, they won 3-0. National coach Hansi Flick has to do without Marco Reus, who tore a muscle fiber.