German soccer player Leon Goretzka sent a message in support of gay rights after scoring his national team's second goal during a match against Hungary, which has faced growing backlash to a new law seeking to curb the distribution of LGBT content.
After Goretzka, a vocal supporter of LGBT rights, scored the equalizing goal, which put Germany into the knockout stages in the final round of the European Championship tournament, he made a heart symbol with his hands toward Hungarian fans.
GORETZKA MIGHT'VE SAVED GERMANY pic.twitter.com/2WfJXrWysY— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 23, 2021
The moment instantly went viral on social media, with fans tweeting messages of praise for the player.
Leon Goretzka’s celebration in front of the Hungary fans.— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) June 23, 2021
What a guy. pic.twitter.com/t8mkAhkh0Q
Goretzka shortly after the match ended tweeted a photo of him making the heart symbol, along with a caption including the Pride flag emoji and the words “Spread Love.”
The moment came the same day the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) defended its decision to deny a request from Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter to display rainbow lights at the stadium in celebration of Pride Month.
The UEFA said that while the rainbow colors were not a political symbol, “the request itself was political, linked to the Hungarian football team’s presence in the stadium for this evening’s match with Germany.”
Reiter pushed back on the UEFA’s decision on Tuesday, calling it “shameful.”
He added that Munich would raise rainbow flags over the city hall and have the Munich stadium’s wind turbine and the city’s Olympic Tower illuminated in rainbow colors in protest of the UEFA move.
Several European Union (EU) member countries, including Germany, Sweden and France, have expressed disapproval over Hungary’s new anti-LGBT law.
The law specifically prohibits sharing with minors content that promotes homosexuality or gender reassignment.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a self-proclaimed proponent of “illiberal democracy,” has defended the new law as a “safeguard” for promoting traditional Christian values against Western influences.
The UEFA also announced this week that it is dropping its probe into German men's national team captain Manuel Neuer over a rainbow armband he wore during two games.
While the UEFA does not allow political statements or symbols at the European tournament, the group said the armband was determined to be a symbol of inclusion and for a good cause.