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Xenophobia in Sport

Xenophobia in Sport Hungarian football fans.

In recent years great attention has been paid to cease racism and violence in the stadiums. The FARE (Football against Racism in Europe) group, set up in 1989 became especially active in the Eastern European Region in recent year. The “Eastern European Development Project” of FARE, launched in 2009, has been focused exclusively on the growing racism, anti-Semitism in football stadiums. The Programme therefore aimed at fighting racism with educational programmes, lobbying and cooperation with local authorities. In Hungary, the Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Association facilitated their activities.

Owing to the cooperation between FARE and UEFA, there was a conference titled “Unite against Racism” with the participation of 52 European football-playing countries. A ten-item list was developed as the basis of the combat against racism. As a part of the programme “Unite against Racism”, a campaign with the title “No to racism” was started in the autumn of 2013 with well-known football-players standing up and saying no to racism in a video message. These programmes had visible effects and the number of such incidents decreased. Enough to see that while between the period of May 2013–April 2014 Action and Protection Foundation registered several anti-Semitic manifestations during football games, between January and June 2015 no such cases were recorded. Unfortunately there is good reason to think that however the attitudes of the supporters most probably did not change, but envisaged fines had an effect.

The managements of Hungarian clubs also made steps to restrain the ultras. In January president of the club, said that he would have the fines paid by the supporters. Kubatov openly stated that his aim is to cease the racism and violence at the stadium.

UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) fined FTC (Ferencvárosi Torna Club) for 50,000 Euro and some matches behind closed doors for the incidents before and after a match between NK Rijeka and Ferencváros, held in July 2014. Among other things FTC supporters used racist slogans, while supporting their team. The FTC appealed but in January 2015 the UEFA refused it.

In April the Disciplinary Committee of the Hungarian Football Federation (Magyar Labdarúgó Szövetsége, MLSZ) fined the Győri ETO FC for 300,000 Forint (approximately 970 Euro) because some of its supporters used racist slogans. In June the Disciplinary Committee of the MLSZ fined the PMFC for 500,000 thousand Forint (approximately 1,600 Euro) because besides other thing its supporters shouted racist slogans.

In Summer 2017, the fans of football club Újpest continuously chanted anti-Semitic, anti-Gipsy, homophobic and sexist phrases in a series of matches. At a match in July, for instance, 250 phrases were counted all together, and also “Sieg Heil” chants, and Nazi salutes occurred.

In October, a black player of the club Videoton was harassed by the fans by making monkey noises at two matches. All the offences mentioned above resulted in fines by the Hungarian Football Association.

However, such offences occur not only in football stadiums. Anti-Gipsy and homophobic phrases are common things among basketball fans as well. Anti-black language has also been used increasingly because more clubs employ foreign black players. In April, a match made headlines where fans of the team Zalaegerszeg chanted openly racist and anti-black phrases and made monkey noises when only black players of the team of Körmend were on the field.

A new phenomenon in 2017 was the emergence of the movement “Sports fans for animals”, a community, which originated in the sports fan subculture and mainly organised itself on Facebook. Even though the group has existed since 2016, they made their breakthrough in June 2017, when they organised a demonstration in the village called Nagycserkesz , where previously the case of a dog that had died after being treated cruelly by its master made headlines across the country. Because the dog’s master was a Roma person, some demonstrators chanted anti-Gipsy phrases, but it then stopped after the organisers had declared this behaviour undesirable. While the group organised more gatherings later the year, the anti-Gipsy behaviour among demonstrators decreased.

September 2, 2021 during the World Cup qualifying match between Hungary and England in Budapest. When the England players knelt before kick-off in solidarity with BLM, Hungarian fans showered them with hoots. After the Englishman Raheem Sterling scored the first goal of the game, he was pelted with projectiles from the part of the stands occupied by the Karpaty Brigade, which unites ardent fans of the national team. Multiple reports after the match, in which Hungary were convincingly beaten 4-0, indicated that some of them were addressing black England players, including Sterling, with racist monkey yells.

While there is no official connection between Fidesz and football fan groups involved in racist or homophobic incidents at national team matches, prominent Hungarian politicians have either shied away from criticizing their behaviour, downplayed their actions, or even spoken out in their favour.

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