— Leon Goretzka (@leongoretzka_) June 23, 2021
German national player Leon Goretzka ran toward the angry Hungarian fan crowd after scoring the goal of the evening.
But why did he make that heart gesture? Why was it so important to him?
To avoid any confusion: the ongoing European soccer championship still goes by the name “Euro 2020” because the tournament was originally scheduled for last year.
Since the competition started, there hasn’t been a lack of controversies. Games are held in 12 different countries with wildly differing COVID-19 strategies. Some countries allow only a few fans to the stadium, while others like Russia and Hungary made it a free for all and gave up on any limitations.
For those of you who are not aware of European politics, Hungary just decided to implement harsh laws against anyone supporting the LGBTQI+ movement. European Union officials from other countries were already thinking about kicking Hungary out of the Union for this behavior.
With that as a backstory, many German soccer fans and players of the national team were already planning to use the stage of the “Euro 2020” to take a stand against these homophobic laws.
German goalie Manuel Neuer was wearing a rainbow-colored captain’s armband in support of the LGBTQI+ community. Unfortunately, the United European Football Association (UEFA) started investigations against him because the rules of the tournament forbid any political statements. The outrage in Germany about that was huge.
For the match against Hungary, the city of Munich planned to illuminate the stadium in rainbow colors—and no surprise there, the UEFA was not having that. Again, outrage in German media.
On the day of the match, to the surprise of everyone involved, a huge Hungarian fan crowd showed up at the stadium in Munich. They were certainly not looking like families travelling to a game; it was quite the opposite. Take a look yourself:
Riot police gathered at the top of the section where the Hungarian fans have gathered in Munich. Unclear why.
Meanwhile, on with the opening ceremony! pic.twitter.com/Hll7rgvLyh
— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) June 23, 2021
Just before the match started, a young fan managed to invade the pitch making his statement, and got celebrated on German social media for that.
— steve✌ (@stevii1900) June 23, 2021
Throughout the entire game, these fans were chanting homophobic slurs and even held up banners with sexist statements. I was almost jumping into my television seeing this unfolding in front of the public eye without anyone intervening.
And then something quite beautiful happened.
The German team didn’t play well. Ten minutes before the end, it looked as if Hungary would beat the German team and kick them out of the tournament. Needless to say that the Hungarian fans standing behind the goal were already celebrating. Personally, I don’t care much for the German national team, but I didn’t want to see these so-called soccer fans from Hungary getting away with their disgusting display of homophobic behavior.
And then Leon Goretzka came onto the pitch. He already campaigned against fascism in the past. I knew that this dude was motivated as f*ck.
A few minutes into the game, he scored the goal that saved the German team from dropping out of the tournament—and he decided to run toward the Hungarian fan crowd folding his hands into a heart.
Christiano Ronaldo was pretty cool when he openly criticized Coca-Cola, but Leon Goretzka is my hero of the Euro 2020.
Sports shouldn’t always be about politics, but in this case, Goretzka did the right thing. Just because someone is an athlete, it doesn’t mean that he or she can not use their platform to speak up against fascism—especially if playing for the German team.
Let’s see what happens next…