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Austrian Abortion/LGBT Protest Ruins Vatican Women's First International Soccer Game

The first international match of the Vatican's new women's soccer team on June 22 in Austria was canceled when the team faced a protest against the Catholic Church rather than competition on the field.

Football Club Mariahilf (FC Mariahilf) in Austria invited the Vatican women's team to play. The event was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of FC Mariahilf. The event banner, below, from FC Mariahilf's Facebook page suggests that this was supposed to be child-friendly event.

However, the match on June 22 was canceled after three Austrian players protested during the playing of the Vatican anthem by lifting their shirts to show drawings on their midriffs of a uterus and ovaries and "My body my rule." They did this as children who had escorted them onto the field looked on.

A brochure the protesters distributed to journalists explained that they were protesting the Catholic Church's opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.

Also , the host team FC Mariahilf had placed LGBT rainbow corner flags on the field. (This use of corner flags for political symbols is problematic. As I have written previously, "Corner Flags Are for Soccer, Not for Political Symbols.")

Before the start of the game, Mass was held on the field, against a backdrop of the name FC Mariahilf painted in LGBT rainbow colors on a wall. The Vatican's representative to Austria, apostolic Nuncio Pedro Lopez Quintana, came for the game. However, he departed promptly after the protest during the anthem. Following his departure the Vatican team announced that they were withdrawing from the match.

The FC Mariahilf statement about the incident posted June 23 on Facebook explains that that the protest was organized independently by the three players, not by the team. After the protest FC Mariahilf had those three players leave the field and had fans remove their signs proclaiming "against homophobia." But it was too late. The FC Mariahilf statement also offers an apology, albeit an ambiguous one:

"Despite ambivalent attitudes in the Club regarding the Vatican, we approved the match because soccer knows no borders...As a Club, tolerance, diversity of lifestyles and peaceful coexistence are important to us, as we have shown by using rainbow symbols. We therefore understand the demands and message of our players, but we find the timing of the implementation inappropriate and therefore understand the tension. We...apologize that the game did not take place."

As for the team's previous use of "rainbow symbols," as mentioned in the statement, one example is in this April 10, 2019 photo of the team on Instagram in which the team captain is wearing an LGBT rainbow captain's armband, even though this violates soccer's international Laws of the Game, as explained in the previous post "Captain's Armband is for Soccer, No Politics."


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