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Hungary in Europe 2016

June 13th, 2016

Hungarian pundits are overwhelmed by football fever, as Hungary makes it into the European Championships for the first time in 44 years.

Even if they have come with a price tag, it seems the much criticized Hungarian government investments in football might be beginning to work, Gábor Borókai suggests in his weekly column in Heti Válasz. The editor-in-chief remarks that ever since the Hungarian national team qualified for the European Championships, Hungarians feel they are fully-fledged European citizens, instead of second-class ones. Hungarian football is still lacking, Borókai admits, but it is closing in on Europe’s midfield. He stresses, however, that the most important question unfortunately remains whether France and the fans travelling there will be able to avoid further terror attacks during the championships.

Latest estimates put the number of Hungarians travelling to France for Euro 2016 at over 30 thousand, Zsigmond Deák writes in Magyar Idők‘s Saturday editorial. Both fans and sports commentators still have to get used to the fact Hungary is back in the mainstream of international football, the author writes in the pro-government paper. Deák also emphasizes, however, that the most popular game in the world has helped Hungary ‘return to Europe’ in a political sense, too, just like the change in the political system in 1989 or joining the European Union in 2004.

Europe is overflowing with players who can be regarded as economic migrants, Ervin Tamás writes in Népszabadság. No national eleven can compete with Champions’ League football teams that have too much money to burn and buy players. Still, he suggests, international tournaments are of no less importance. Even if they are playing on the same pitch, the author suggests, these games are an exciting cocktail of national pride; historic traumas, old wounds and memorable triumphs, and fans relate to these games in a different way. Considering that an increasing number of naturalised players of migrant origin are now on national teams in Europe, we can see to what extent conflicts generated by prejudices and racism are a sham, Tamás concludes.

László Darvasi in HVG finds it interesting that while ‘the domain of lies’ has grown significantly in football, especially around doping and finances, the game also promotes more and more positive values like solidarity and anti-racism. It is no accident that religious fanatics target football fans, Darvasi suggests in the left-liberal weekly.

Róbert Puzsér in his weekly column in Magyar Nemzet fulminates that the beloved game is dying because of the immorality of minor or major investors who make a living out of football. The author feels fans tend to be less and less enamoured by club soccer invaded by migrants and mercenaries, and the resulting ‘loss of identity’ of their teams. But the European Championships are different, he suggests, because it still retains something of the sacrality that has made soccer the most popular game on the planet. Games are not mere showbiz here, the pundit contends, but wars without blood, where players are the most talented and devoted warriors of their tribes. (He wrote his piece before the violent clashes between Russian ultras and English fans in Marseille.)