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Hungarians mock woke European soccer players

Superfluous and politically correct statements by soccer players are not very popular in Hungary. The rainbow armband worn by the German team captain at the last European Championship was the subject of ridicule among Hungarian fans.

Published: June 8, 2022, 12:29 pm

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    The British, too, could not refrain from making a woke political statement on the soccer pitch – and thereby also incurred the displeasure of the Hungarian audience. Before the kick-off of the international match against Hungary in Budapest, the British national team felt it was necessary to kneel down demonstratively as a “sign against racism”. The gesture had arisen a few years ago in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Hungarian audience acknowledged the visiting team taking a knee with sustained boos.

    Among the British visitors – who were sent home after a resounding 2-1 defeat in Budapest – it caused anger and a great deal of incomprehension. “We do this to educate people around the world,” England coach Gareth Southgate said after the game. “I don’t understand why people choose to boo that gesture.”

    Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Conor Coady was also clear after the Nations League opener: “It’s extremely disappointing. It’s important that people understand why we are doing this,” he explained. The boos were “not something we want to hear”. Already at the World Cup qualifier in Hungary in September 2021, England professionals Jude Bellingham and Raheem Sterling had been victims of alleged racist abuse. Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson had stepped in to harshly criticised Hungary afterwards.

    On Tuesday, by the way, the indignant Brits were calmed down by the German national team in the Allianz Arena in red-green-ruled Munich – both teams celebrated in cosy unison with rainbow armbands and anti-racist genuflections.

    The German team added an extra tidbit by running onto the pitch in the jerseys of the German women’s national soccer team – to promote the upcoming Women’s European Championship in England, they said. The Belgians will be joining them in this gesture.

    Not only on the soccer field

    Hungary has been angering other parties in Europe as well. Over the last few weeks, Budapest had already drawn some angry criticism from Kiev because it had refused to unconditionally support the EU’s oil embargo policy. Hungary was recently able to push through a special arrangement for further oil deliveries from Russia.

    To add insult to injury, the Hungarian parliamentary speaker Laszlo Kever this week publicly wondered about the blatant way in which Ukraine, and especially its president Zelensky, approached its Western allies for aid. Zelensky has “psychological problems”, the Hungarian politician speculated.

    “Statements by the president of Ukraine are sometimes strange. Usually, those who need help ask for it politely persistently, but ask, not demand or threaten. One usually threatens enemies, not those they want to have as friends. There is a personal mental problem here,” Kever told Hungarian newspaper 444.hu. He added: “I don’t remember the leader of a country in need of help daring to speak out against anyone, as President Zelensky spoke not only against Hungary but also against the German chancellor.”

    Ukrainian presidential adviser Podoljak immediately retaliated angrily, writing on Facebook, “The only ‘problem country’ in the European family, Mr. Laszlo Kever, is Hungary, which blocks any response to Russian atrocities in Ukraine.” Budapest should stop “boasting about its ‘cannibalistic’ attitude. Such statements will not earn you the best place in the history books,” he declared. Hungary, he said, was knowingly exchanging the souls of dead Ukrainian children for “oil gingerbread”.

    Relations between Kiev and Budapest have been strained for some time. Because of the continuing discrimination against the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, the Hungarian government has already made several representations to Brussels. Most recently, the Ukrainian government blatantly threatened to blow up the – Russian – oil pipeline that currently still supplies Hungary.

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