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Romania 3, Hungary 0 – the political overtones

September 9th, 2013

A pro-government paper criticizes The New York Times for overemphasizing the tension caused by extremist Hungarian fans, or ultras, without reporting on similar incidents on the Romanian side. The leading left-wing Hungarian daily reminds readers that no one outside Hungary expected the national team to win and the government was rather late in warning Hungarian fans to abstain from wrongdoing. A transborder Hungarian writer describes how harmful the ultra’s behaviour will be for Hungarians in Transylvania.

The World Cup Qualifier between Hungary and Romania was preceded by incidents where a few dozen rowdy ultras reportedly insulted first Roma children in Hungary, then participants of a Transylvanian art festival (organized by Hungarians) in Romania, before going on a rampage in Bucharest. Despite some offensive nationalistic slogans on both parts, the match was without further incidents and ultras came home the next day. Hungary lost to Romania 0-3.

Magyar Nemzet criticises an article in The New York Times that claims the match ’is hostage to history’. Columnist László N. Kovács reproaches the NYT author for not checking his facts – by claiming that the extreme right Jobbik grew stronger after the Fidesz landslide in 2010, even though Jobbik’s poll rating fell from about 17 to about 10 per cent. Nor is it true that other extremist groups have emerged. László N. Kovács also reminds the reader that while the NYT piece dedicates long passages to the Hungarian ultras and their revisionist and racist rhetoric, their Romanian counterparts, who are no lest jingoistic, go unnoticed.

A Népszabadság editorial says “we, less rowdy fans were disappointed but not surprised” –the entire world knew Romania had much better chances and a better team, only Hungarians pretended they were the favourites. Népszabadság criticises the Foreign Ministry for having issued a warning to fans that they should observe the rules of sportsmanship and the laws of Romania only hours after Hungarian ultras clashed with Romanian fans. Not that Romanian fans were any better with their banner celebrating the date when Transylvania was annexed by Romania in 1918. When Romania is eliminated in the next round, the author concludes, “it will become obvious that all this excitement was over nothing”.

The only lesson which remains to be learnt is that Hungarians have fallen beneath European standards both on the pitch and in the gallery.

Writing for Heti Világgazdaság, Előd Balázsi-Pál, a Transylvanian journalist and writer presents a mock monologue of a Hungarian ultra, a chronicle of “great deeds” from frightening Roma children to beating up an artist at a festival in Sepsziszentgyörgy, the centre of Szeklerland and ending up drunk in a hospital. He ridicules the rhetoric of ultras who call Romanians “Gipsies” and find transborder Hungarians not Hungarian enough while they roam the streets in a drunken stupor. The author notes that his bitter description does not apply to most fans who travelled to Bucharest last Friday, but all the fans leave, while transborder Hungarians will stay to face the consequences.

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