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Returning national football team hailed despite defeat

June 29th, 2016

Pundits try to untangle why Hungarians rejoice after the national squad was crushed by Belgium on Sunday.

It would be very difficult to explain to a foreigner what is currently happening in Hungary, Népszabadság admits in its front page editorial, reflecting on how the Hungarian national football team was greeted ecstatically in Budapest, after having been sent home from Euro 2016 by Belgium on Sunday.

The Hungarian team suffered a knock-out blow by Belgium in UEFA EURO Round 16, ending Hungary’s surprise march in the cup. Its final defeat on Sunday notwithstanding, the team has outperformed every expectation by first making it into the European Championships for the first time in 44 years, and then by reaching the last 16. Young people reacted with an outpour of enthusiasm in Hungary and large numbers took to the streets to celebrate (see BudaPost June 16th, 2016) after matches. On Monday afternoon, a mass gathering was organized to welcome the returning national squad on Heroes’ Square in Budapest.

Why is everyone amilingand laughing then? Népszabadság asks. Behind the smiles are so much previous disappointment, the paper suggests, and Hungarian football, a game that helps us experience togetherness, has now redeemed Hungarian fans from the pain it had caused for so long.

‘This defeat, in fact, meant our greatest victory’, writes János Makk on Mandiner. In what other capital would fans celebrate a crushed national team till dawn, he asks. His explanation is as enthusiastic as the mood of the fans themselves: ‘this is Hungary, these are Hungarian fans, this is the Hungarian dream one should never wake up from’, he concludes.

In football, what is really important is not what is going on in the pitch, but what is happening outside, László Pajor-Gyulai asserts in his Magyar Nemzet editorial. What has overwhelmed the country after so much greyness in the national championships is the rediscovered communal sense of going to watch a game, the author suggests. Now the question is, Pajor-Gyulai writes, how much of that magic will trickle down into everyday Hungarian football, making us believe these two weeks were more than a passing dream.