The Hungarian national team is punished by UEFA after discriminatory gaffes at the Euro 2021. The team has to play ghost games - yet 30,000 spectators come and embarrass the association in an absurd way.
In Hungary, people were very outraged last summer. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto complained that UEFA was a "pathetic and cowardly" body. Arresting the football association for three ghost games because some (editor’s note: not a few) fans at the European Championship had misbehaved massively, racistly and discriminated against, that was too much. But UEFA stood firm, at least officially, and did not back away from the decision.
But how steadfast UEFA is was revealed on Saturday evening. When Hungary faced England in the Nations League. According to the regulations, children up to the age of 14 can enter the stadium for closed-door games if they are invited and accompanied by an adult. According to several media, up to 30,000 fans were in the stadium. In a ghost game. What a farce!
And the Hungarians punished UEFA's "steadfastness" mercilessly. With whistles against the English, who fell to their knees before kick-off as a sign of more tolerance and acceptance, as a sign in the fight against racism. What was particularly shocking was that even the youngest in the stadium, i.e. those who were wanted, were whistling and booing. England coach Gareth Southgate didn't want to criticize the fans directly on "Channel 4", but he was surprised. "We also get on our knees to educate people in the world and raise awareness. The children may not know why we are doing this, but they are obviously influenced by the adults."
And from the leadership of the country, which has an extremely strange attitude when it comes to tolerance. The dispute over the forbidden rainbow lights in the Munich arena at the European Championships, as a visible sign against exclusion and discrimination, as pursued by Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is still fresh in our memories. In the summer of 2021, he passed a law intended to prevent "advertising" for homosexuality. As if sexuality were a conscious choice. And it's not about "advertising" either, it's about removing all content about gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual and queer people from schools and from the public stage.
Instead of standing up for anti-discrimination and equality, UEFA retreated to formalities when it came to human rights. Which in the end was a clear - albeit devastating - sign. Direction Hungary, at Orbán. UEFA's good friend. While large parts of the continent unite under the rainbow flag, hatred is spreading in Hungary. The "Carpathian Brigade" combat group showed LGBTIQ-hostile double holders in the stadium - and in the game against Germany was exposed to the unmistakable cheering of Leon Goretzka. A scene that went through Europe. A scene that was celebrated. A scene that would never have been expected from UEFA.
Of course, UEFA intervened. She investigated, punished and now had pseudo ghost games carried out. UEFA has been disgraced by a significant number of people with sentiments against a free and open society. Exactly the behavior shown, which is why the stadium should actually remain empty. Does that have consequences? The third ghost game is suspended for probation. Taking tough action now would be a strong signal from the powerful association, which is reeling from one disgrace to the next these days.
At the Champions League final last week, spectator admission was completely out of control. UEFA talked head and neck, made massive allegations against the fans - and later apologised. "No football fan should be put in a situation like this and it must not happen again," the continental federation said in a statement. It addressed fans who had "experienced or witnessed frightening and horrifying events" before the final in Paris.
UEFA explained the chaos at the entrance to the large number of fans without valid tickets. The turnstiles at the entrance for Liverpool fans were blocked because thousands of supporters with fake tickets could not go through them. Fan representatives criticize a one-sided representation by UEFA. Under pressure, the association later reiterated that it had launched an independent investigation into the incidents, led by former Portuguese Environment Minister Tiago Brandao Rodrigues. It is intended to "determine deficiencies and responsibilities of all those involved in organizing the final".
Once again, UEFA wants to stand firm. But that's not a good sign.