DThe German national football team is not planning any particular socio-political gesture for the Nations League game on Saturday (8.45 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Nations League and on RTL) against Hungary in Budapest. That’s what Oliver Bierhoff, director of national teams at the German Football Association (DFB), said on Thursday in the team quarters in Herzogenaurach.
Most recently, the internationals had joined the initiative of the English team to kneel down before the game kicked off on Tuesday in Munich as a sign against racism. Three days earlier, coach Gareth Southgate’s team had been booed in Budapest – mostly by children.
The game at the Ferenc Puskás Stadium was supposed to take place without an audience after the discriminatory behavior of Hungarian fans at last year’s European Championship. The Hungarian FA circumvented the European Football Union’s (UEFA) ruling, which had already been reduced by one game, by allowing children under the age of 14 and school attendants access, which UEFA regulations allowed.
The 72,000 spectator stadium was almost half full, which caused a lack of understanding in England. Southgate was “very surprised” by the behavior of the young fans. In Munich there was applause from the grandstands for the action of the two teams. “We wanted to support the action of the English,” said Bierhoff now, but: “Nothing is planned for Hungary now.”
At the European Championship, the last group game of the DFB team against Hungary in Munich was characterized by socio-political debates. Against the background of discriminatory legislation in Hungary, the rainbow flag was present in the city and in the stadium as a symbol against homophobia, and the plan to also have the arena brightly lit was rejected by UEFA with reference to neutrality.
During the game (2:2), the German international Leon Goretzka showed a hand-shaped heart towards the Hungarian spectators while celebrating the goal, later he captioned the picture on social media with the note “Spread Love”.
Goretzka, who is one of the pros taking his stand most clearly beyond football, seemed unwilling to attach too much importance to the packed Puskás Stadion reunion with Hungary. “I’m preparing for the game just like the others,” he said last week in Herzogenaurach. He had “good memories of the EM game, with my goal – not just because of the gesture”.
In general, the national players seemed to be a bit more reserved in socio-political matters. On Thursday, Bierhoff asked for understanding that the players dealt with it differently. Soccer professionals are “young people” and also in this respect a “cross-section of society”. But Bierhoff stuck to the basic claim: “You have to deal with it” and, as a team as a whole, “take an attitude and position”.