Wijnaldum to wear rainbow armband in Budapest and could take players off pitch

Netherlands captain Gini Wijnaldum will wear a rainbow-coloured captain’s armband in his side’s Euro 2020 last-16 clash against the Czech Republic in Budapest, and he says he is prepared to take his team off the pitch if they are abused.

Hungary’s treatment of LGBT+ people has come under fire of late, with many questioning why UEFA have been so keen to deal with the country and seemingly turn to blind eye to alarming developments.

The country recently passed a law that quashes discussion of homosexuality and gender change in schools, with many footballers using their status to criticise the move.

Germany captain Manuel Neuer was the subject of a UEFA probe when he sported a rainbow-coloured armband in the group stages, while UEFA also denied permission for the Allianz Arena in Munich to be lit up in the rainbow colours for Germany’s match against Hungary on Wednesday.

Manuel Neuer has sported a rainbow armband during the tournament

There were reports that both Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and France’s Kylian Mbappe were targeted with homophobic and racist abuse during the 2-2 draw between the countries in Budapest on Wednesday, and Wijnaldum – who recently joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after leaving Liverpool – says he is willing to act should any of his teammates receive abuse during their match against the Czechs.

“It is not just against Hungary,” said the Dutchman, who explained that he will wear a rainbow-coloured captain’s armband with the words ‘One Love’ on it for the match.

“The armband means a lot because we stand for diversity – one love means everybody is a part of it and everybody should be free to be who they are.

“In our opinion [people’s right to be themselves] has been encroached upon. As players we have a podium to do whatever we can to help.”

Wijnaldum also challenged UEFA to do more to combat discrimination, adding that walking off the pitch should not be left to the players to decide.

Wijnaldum says he's willing to take his team off the pitch
Wijnaldum says he’s willing to take his team off the pitch

“UEFA should be there to protect the players and make the decision,” he said.

“It should not be left to the players. Players often get punished for protecting themselves so UEFA needs to take a lead role in this.

“I have said I don’t really know how I will react in such a situation.

“I thought first that I would walk off the pitch, but maybe not now because maybe the opponent will think: ‘Let them [the crowd] throw racist slurs and they will walk off the pitch’.

“It could be the case that I will walk off the pitch but I will speak with the players about it first.”

Netherlands vs Czech Republic takes place at 5pm GMT on Sunday.

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