In general I’m not keen on writing on topics about which I have little knowledge and even less interest. Soccer falls squarely into this category. I have never had any interest in the sport and as far as I can remember I attended only one soccer match in my life, at the age of twelve when I was a guest of some relatives in Vasas, then a small mining village not far from Pécs. Even then I went only because because my hosts took me. In fact, I developed a distinct dislike for the game. This dislike wasn’t even mitigated at the time of the general national celebration of the “golden team” that made soccer history in 1953 by winning against the English for the first time on their own turf.
Yet I have to write something about the soccer madness that causes a lot of violence everywhere in the world. People can be trampled to death at matches, fans beat each other to a pulp in drunken brawls. And here is the latest. A “friendly” encounter between a famous team, the Hertha BSC of Berlin, and the infamous Ferencváros Torna Club (FTC) or Fradi. It was a test match, a friendly encounter that ended up not being so friendly.
The unspeakable behavior of Fradi fans goes back a long way. In the early days of Hungarian soccer there were two rival clubs, the FTC and MTK (Magyar Testgyakorlók Köre or Circle of Hungarian Physical Activists). MTK was established in the 1880s by wealthy aristocrats and Jewish businessmen. Thus it was known as the Jewish club. To this day Fradi fans yell all sorts of anti-semitic slogans at FTC-MTK games. But they don’t confine their bad behavior to matches against MTK.
There is almost always trouble when Fradi plays and its fans show up. These fans even have an association, Ferencváros Szurkolók Szövetsége, which seems to “defend the interests” of the fans. They “negotiate” about their rights and the club’s duties toward them. They want to have a say in decisions. Their latest beef was that FTC changed security guards without consulting with their association. The “fans” were satisfied with the old firm and “with this act the club lost its credibility,” charged the leadership on the fan club’s website. The complaint ends: “Enough of all that lying!” Nice fans, don’t you think? The fan club’s logo is not very friendly either. Although the artist wasn’t the best, one can discover a “turul” (a mythical eagle) clutching a sword, the symbol of the military and the police.
It doesn’t happen too often that a famous foreign team comes to Budapest for the simple reason that Hungarian soccer is bad. Very bad. However, a private company for good money organized a match between Hertha BSC and Fradi. Sports pages were full of anticipation. “Two [Hungarian] legends will face each other” on July 14: Péter Lipcsei is the “legend” of Ferencváros, while another Hungarian, Pál Dárdai, is the “icon” of Hertha. Unfortunately it was not only Dárdai and Lipcsei who faced each other. About seventy drunken, tattooed skinheads attacked the peaceful German fans. That was bad enough, but the attack was accompanied by shouts of “Sieg Heil” and “Heil Hitler.” The German fans tried to “escape,” but before they could two or three were injured.
I found more than eighty articles about the event in German papers. The Bild, the Tagesspiegel, the Berliner Zeitung, the Berliner Kurir, the Berliner Morgenpost–every blessed German paper was full of the story. I read some of the comments by Germans in Der Tagesspiegel, and I must say they were not exactly complimentary towards Hungary and the Hungarians. One of them called the incident an embarrassment for Hungary where on the streets of Budapest Nazis are marching. The person added that it is really a pity that Hungary, which in the early 1990s showed “real potential,” ended up like this. In Bild one of the German fans told how afraid he was for his life. All in all, it was a glorious day for Hungary thanks to the Fradi fans. Of course, the “president” of the fan club claims that the mob that attacked the Germans had nothing to do with the “true” fans. Outside provocation! He has no idea who these skinheads were. But there is another version coming from the manager of Fradi: the fans were angry that the club changed security guards and that’s how they paid the club back.
As usual, everybody is passing the buck. MLSZ (Magyar Labdarúgók Szövetsége), the official Hungarian soccer organization, received a complaint from Hertha but it claimed no responsibility. After all, the match did not take place as the result of an official invitation by the association. It was privately arranged. Then there were the police. During half time the manager of Hertha asked the police officers nearby to help. They refused. Their reasoning was that FTC didn’t hire them to keep order inside of the stadium. No one talks about the role played by the new security guards.
By the way, Ferencváros lost 2-0.