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UEFA probes discrimination at Budapest games, halts rainbow armband review

FOOTBALL By Reuters | June 21st 2021
June 19, 2021 Germany's Manuel Neuer applauds fans after the match Pool via REUTERS

UEFA is investigating "potential discriminatory incidents" during Hungary's European Championship matches against Portugal and France at the Puskas Arena, European soccer's governing body said on Sunday.

During Hungary's opening game against Portugal in Budapest on Tuesday, images on social media showed banners with "Anti-LMBTQ" on them - the Hungarian abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer.

Hungary's parliament passed legislation last week that bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change, amid strong criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties.

The anti-discrimination group Fare, which monitors matches for incidents of racism and other forms of discrimination, sent a report to UEFA and discussed the matter with officials.

On Saturday ahead of Hungary's match against France, Hungarian fans marched to the Puskas Arena displaying a banner calling on players to stop taking a knee to protest against racism.

In a statement https://disciplinary.uefa.com/insideuefa/disciplinary/updates/026a-1290b09f1f87-6ae9685cfc79-1000--uefa-ethics-and-disciplinary-inspector-appointed, UEFA said it has appointed an ethics and disciplinary inspector to investigate the incidents.

The only stadium to allow a full capacity crowd in during the Euros, the Puskas Arena was completed in 2019 as a pet project of populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a football fanatic who has often been criticised for spending on his favourite sport.

Hungary has weathered a second wave of the coronavirus, with new cases averaging 100 to 200 a week recently. But it has the world's second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people, based on Johns Hopkins University data https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality.

Meanwhile, UEFA has halted an investigation into the rainbow captain's armband worn by Germany's Manuel Neuer at the tournament.

Neuer has worn the rainbow armband, which represents solidarity with the LGBTQ community, during Germany's opening two games in honour of Pride Month.

UEFA was looking into whether the armband had breached its rules regarding on-field political statements, but has now evaluated it as a sign of support for diversity and thus promoting "a good cause".

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