Hungary, one of the 14 host countries of the upcoming Euro 2020 football championship, has been ruled for 11 years by die-hard nationalist Orban, who has ruffled the feathers with his anti-immigrant and nativist rhetoric in recent years.
Orban, who faces his toughest electoral challenge after three successive landslides against a united opposition next year, said Hungarian athletes had to “fight on their feet”.
Hungarian fans booed the visiting Irish team for kneeling ahead of their recent match in Budapest, which Ireland coach Stephen Kenny called “incomprehensible”.
Orban defended the fans, however.
“If you are a guest in a country, understand its culture and don’t provoke it,” Orban said at a press conference. “Do not provoke the host … We can only see this system of gestures from our cultural point of view as unintelligible, as a provocation.”
“The fans reacted like those who are provoked usually react to provocation. They don’t always choose the most elegant form (of reaction) but we have to understand their reasons … I agree with the fans.”
England coach Gareth Southgate has said his side will not ‘just stick to football’ during Euro 2020, while one of his players has said the team are united in their stance against injustice racial despite the taunts of some fans.
Orban said he had no sympathy for “this kneeling matter. I don’t think it has a place on the pitch. Sport is about anything else.”
He said the gesture had spread as quickly as due to the guilt former slave nations feel towards the descendants of the slaves living among them, adding that Hungary has never had slavery.
“It is a hard and serious moral burden, but each nation must bear this burden on its own,” Orban said. “They have to sort this out on their own.”
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