A “friendly” football match: Hungary-Israel 1-1

Over the past few days the outrageous behavior of a large group of football fans at the Israeli-Hungarian “friendly” match on August 15 has become an international cause célèbre.

Initially the behavior of the neo-Nazi fans went unnoticed in Hungary, with the possible exception of the rest of those 10,000 people who attended the match. Although they were screaming “stinking Jews” at the top of their lungs all through the match, the most egregious part of their performance occurred during the Israeli anthem.

The incident became widely known only on August 17, two days after the game, when a blogger, a Hungarian who lives in Prague, reported on it. In Hungary only Péter Németh, editor-in-chief of Népszava, felt the need to comment on it in a short editorial. As he said in his note, Hungarians have gotten to the point that a little “zsidózás” is not even worth mentioning.

In the last twenty years the Hungarians have played against the Israelis five times.  The Israelis won twice, the Hungarians once, and twice the match ended in a tie, including the most recent one.

In far-right circles this game was considered to be a very important affair. Some of the hard-core anti-Semites on Facebook and Magyar Hírlap were concerned before the game that “for political reasons the Hungarians must not win the game.” One financial genius added that “Man, if we beat them tomorrow the euro will be worth 320 forints.” A third man announced that “it is ridiculous that there is again a country that our national team may not beat. That’s like when the golden team had to lose against the Soviet Union.” The golden team refers to the Mighty Magyars of 1950s fame.

From Facebook it is also clear that these neo-Nazis were preparing to create a scandal at the game. One participant in the discussion provided the others with a telephone number in case anyone got into trouble with the police.

The Hungarian authorities knew well ahead of time that trouble was brewing and in fact the Israeli national football team was warned of a “severe threat” to their safety in Budapest. From the interview with Eli Guttman, the team’s coach, it is not clear exactly what the Hungarian police did to defend the visitors. We do know that there was cooperation between the Israel security detail that accompanied the team and the Hungarian police because the Israelis’ “bus was sent out of the stadium after the match with a police escort and sirens sounding so that people would think it was [them. They] were asked to stay behind and left later in a bus with the blinds drawn.”

The day started pleasantly enough. The Magyar Labdarúgó Szövetség (Hungarian Football Association) organized a dinner party for the officials of the Israeli delegation that included the president of the Israeli Football Association. In attendance were Sándor Csányi, CEO of OTP and the president of the association, as well as the secretary-general and the vice-president. Ilan Mor, the Israeli ambassador, was also present.

But then came the preliminaries to the match. As usual, the visitor’s national anthem is played first followed by the national anthem of the home team. This is what people in the stadium could hear of the Israeli national anthem:

As days went by more and more details surfaced. One was a photograph taken in the stadium. Tibor Bana, a Jobbik member of parliament, can be seen on the photo in the company of two attractive girls. One of the girls is holding up an Iranian flag in front of her. Jobbik, as is well known by now, has very friendly relations with Iran. It is also likely that the party receives money from the Iranian government. It is pretty clear that Jobbik had a hand in creating this particular scandal with the help of the neo-Nazi football hooligans.

Several days went by and the Hungarian government didn’t feel it necessary to say anything or to apologize to Israel. At last the English-language Israeli paper Haaretz broke the silence and pointed out that “The Hungarian authorities still have not apologized for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents that took place at an August 15 soccer match between the national teams of Israel and Hungary in Budapest. During the so-called friendly match, a warm-up for both teams in advance of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, Hungarian fans turned their back on the field during the singing of ‘Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, and waved Iranian and Palestinian flags.”

A day later The Jerusalem Post also reported on the incident. The Post quoted Péter Morvay, editor of ATV, who attended the match with his son: “Not a few lunatics, but the whole bunch of supporters behaved this way.”

After a fair amount of pressure, the Hungarian government released a statement on August 21, almost a week after the incident. There was no apology, but the statement declared that “the Hungarian government deeply condemns the behavior of the football fans who disturbed the dignity of the friendly Israeli-Hungarian football match on August 15.” However, “the extremist behavior is not in direct contradiction with the law, therefore there is no legal ground for the authorities to take immediate action.”

The Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) said that it would investigate the incidents at a meeting today. I guess they are still investigating because as yet there is no news on the outcome of their gathering.

And finally the Israeli national anthem which cannot be heard on the video.

If the tune sounds familiar it is because this 16th century popular Italian song was incorporated by Bedřich Smetana in his symphonic poem Má vlast  as “Vltava.”

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Guest
Minusio
August 22, 2012 4:50 pm

As a citizen of a member country of the European Union I feel deep shame.

Guest
Kingfisher
August 22, 2012 5:09 pm

In fairness to Hungarians generally, it was not a “large group”. It was a small but odious group who one suspects, turned up in Cegléd a few days later. And again in fairness, this is not so different from what you hear at English football matches, or German ones, although the targets tend to be different. For me, the real scandal is that it took the Hungarian government SIX days to comment, and when it did, as you rightfully point out, it didn’t really get to the nitty gritty of the matter.

Another scandal is that the stadium is in a disastrous state and should not be open to the public.

Guest
GW
August 22, 2012 5:38 pm

Once again, the Hungarian government misses an opportunity to acknowledge a problem and do the right thing. It would have been so easy for the President, the Prime Minister, or the Speaker of Parliament to publicly scold the hooligans and remind them that patriotic Hungarians are people of dignity, respect, manners and fair play and they are expected to act on that basis. The Prime Minister frequently likes to remind people of his background in sports. Well, here is a perfect opportunity to show that he is a real sportsperson, respecting an opponent on and off the field and encouraging his citizens to do the same. The behavior here is so shameful that if no apology is forthcoming and no meaningful measures are taken to insure that it not happen again, Hungary should probably not be allowed be allowed to have its fans attend international matches for some time into the future, if not forfeit some number of games.

Guest
August 22, 2012 6:02 pm

Kingfisher :
In fairness to Hungarians generally, it was not a “large group”. It was a small but odious group who one suspects, turned up in Cegléd a few days later. And again in fairness, this is not so different from what you hear at English football matches, or German ones, although the targets tend to be different. For me, the real scandal is that it took the Hungarian government SIX days to comment, and when it did, as you rightfully point out, it didn’t really get to the nitty gritty of the matter.
Another scandal is that the stadium is in a disastrous state and should not be open to the public.

London Calling!

I beg to differ – this IS so different from what happens at an English football match.

Although I am no expert – I have never attended a football match in my life – but Anti-Semitism and Racism are heavily stamped upon.

It has taken years for things to get to this stage.

This behaviour should be banned by FIFA – and any offending supporters should have their National team removed from the competition.

Just shameful – and Hungary’s dilatory response again sends another wrong message.

Regards

Charlie

Guest
tappanch
August 22, 2012 7:31 pm

“THE MELODY in fact goes back 600 years to the Sephardi prayer Birkat Hatal, the prayer for dew, written in Toledo, Spain, by Rabbi Yitzhak Bar-Sheshet. After the Inquisition, the Jews of Spain were dispersed across Europe, the Balkans and North Africa, and the melody found its way to Italy, where it became a popular love song “Fugi, Fugi Amore Mio.” From there the tune had two separate paths. On one it wandered to Romania, where it was altered by the local gypsies and that was the melody that Cohen used. It other path went through Italy, where it was heard by the 12-year-old Mozart, who had been sent to study there and would later incorporate it into the eighth of his 12 variations on a popular French children’s song called “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman.” Mozart took it to Vienna and on to Prague, and there Smetana picked it up. The irony is, explains Baltsan, that Smetana also used it to express a nationalistic sentiment. […] He asks himself, ‘What is a national movement?’ It is like a river and he he thinks of the national river, the Vltava [in German, the Moldau]. A river is always flowing; you can’t… Read more »

Guest
tappanch
August 22, 2012 7:55 pm

The Moldavian variant of the original tune that became the Israeli anthem has the title
“carul cu boi” (oxcart).

Guest
tappanch
August 22, 2012 8:10 pm

“La Mantovana is a sixteenth century song composed by the Italian tenor Giuseppe Cenci, also known as Giuseppino del Biado, (d. 1616) to the text Fuggi, Fuggi, Fuggi da questo cielo. Its earliest known appearance in print is in del Biado’s 1600 collection of madrigals. The melody, later also known as “Ballo di Mantova” or “Aria di Mantova” gained wide currency in Renaissance Europe, being recorded variously as the

Scottish “My mistress is prettie,” the
Polish “Pod Krakowem,”
Spanish “Virgen de la Cueva” and the
Ukrainian “Kateryna Kucheryava.”

“La Mantovana” appears in “Il Scolaro” by Gasparo Zanetti, 1645, as “Ballo di Mantua” in “Duo Tessuti con diversi Solfeggiamenti, Scherzi, Perfidie et Oblighi” by Giuseppe Giamberti in 1657, and as “An Italian Rant” in John Playford’s “Dancing Master” in 1657.

“Fuggi, fuggi, dolente cor,” a version of the madrigal setting, provides the source material for Biagio Marini’s 1655 trio sonata in G minor (Op. 22, “Sonata Sopra ‘Fuggi dolente core’”).”

Guest
tappanch
August 22, 2012 8:23 pm

Guest
August 23, 2012 12:56 am

“One of the girls is holding up an Iranian flag in front of her. Jobbik, as is well known by now, has very friendly relations with Iran.

Holding another country’s flag instead of your own, is just ridiculous and such a sell out. Man, I wish they’d just apply PR from Iran already, instead of contaminating this country.

Guest
Dolce
August 23, 2012 5:48 am

Good article, though equating racist chants and gestures with the turning of backs during the playing of a country’s anthem (especially one widely condemned for severe and systematic human rights abuse) is not quite ‘kosher’.

While the former is absolutely reprehensible, the latter could obviously be a legitimate act of political protest.

That is not to suggest there may not have been actual anti-Semites among those turning their backs, but it is patently bogus under the circumstances, and given the ongoing policies and behaviour of the current Israeli regime, to portray this some kind of “mass anti-Semitic act”…

It is likewise not misplaced for a team officially representing the state of Israel to be targeted for protests against the egregious acts of the regime which sponsors it, however oblivious and/or indifferent many of the the team’s members might be to the issues at hand.

Member
August 23, 2012 7:16 am

Dolce :
Good article, though equating racist chants and gestures with the turning of backs during the playing of a country’s anthem (especially one widely condemned for severe and systematic human rights abuse) is not quite ‘kosher’.

I’m looking again at the fine gentlemen on the footage and it seems to me the turning back is not political protest. It’s just sheer hatred.

Guest
GÓL
August 23, 2012 8:18 am

Mutt Damon – brilliant words.
Hungary – in soccer style – is a champion of the Öngóls.
It would be a relief to aim at the goal line of the opponent.
The Hungarian Spectrum, Laszlo Bito, and new book by Attila Csernok:”A komáromi pontonhíd” may hold a prescription for curing our hating Hungarians, the sick minority in a small nation.

Member
August 23, 2012 8:28 am

Most of these guys in the stadium I bet don’t even know where Israel is on the map …

Guest
August 23, 2012 9:33 am

I have not watched the video posted on Eva’s website, because I saw another posting earlier and wanted to make sure I can keep my dinner inside. However, at least on the video I saw, several of the “political protesters against Israel” were shouting “Auschwitz for the Jews” with faces distorted with hatred. So no, it was not a political statement. It was plain and simple anti-Semitism. And by young people, who may not have even seen a real “Jew”. Where does the hatred come from? My guess is that education, political rhetoric, and Bayer-like so-called journalism are greatly responsible. And Kingfisher what, in your opinion, a small group is? 10, 20, 50? In my opinion, granted possibly biased, this was a large group. I don’t want to get into estimating numbers, but had a real fan of Hungarian football been close to this “small” group with Jewish origin, I guarantee you he would have been frightened out of his mind. (I, unfortunately think, that this imaginary fan would have stayed at home knowing what everybody except the inapt organizer knew, that a “small” group of people would behave this way). Allowing this to happen is a shame. It does… Read more »

Guest
tappanch
August 23, 2012 10:00 am

When the crowds and governments demand the creation of a Kurdish or Berber state with the same passion as they demand the creation of the 24th Arab state (the Palestinian), then I might consider them as no longer antisemitic but simply anti-Israeli.

Guest
August 23, 2012 10:11 am

tappanch: I advise you to read the book “The peace to end all peace” You may find the root of both problems.

Guest
petofi
August 23, 2012 10:46 am

Thomas : I have not watched the video posted on Eva’s website, because I saw another posting earlier and wanted to make sure I can keep my dinner inside. However, at least on the video I saw, several of the “political protesters against Israel” were shouting “Auschwitz for the Jews” with faces distorted with hatred. So no, it was not a political statement. It was plain and simple anti-Semitism. And by young people, who may not have even seen a real “Jew”. Where does the hatred come from? My guess is that education, political rhetoric, and Bayer-like so-called journalism are greatly responsible. And Kingfisher what, in your opinion, a small group is? 10, 20, 50? In my opinion, granted possibly biased, this was a large group. I don’t want to get into estimating numbers, but had a real fan of Hungarian football been close to this “small” group with Jewish origin, I guarantee you he would have been frightened out of his mind. (I, unfortunately think, that this imaginary fan would have stayed at home knowing what everybody except the inapt organizer knew, that a “small” group of people would behave this way). Allowing this to happen is a shame.… Read more »

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
August 23, 2012 11:07 am

I wonder why Hungarian nazi believe that such behavior will be accepted?
Israel has been an extraordinary success story: a culturally and economically thriving society, as well as a vibrant democracy in one of the world’s least democratic areas. A world leader in agricultural, medical, military and solar energy technologies, among others a hight-tech superpower attracting more venture capital investment per capita than the USA and Europe, home of one of the world’s best health systems and philharmonic orchestras, as well as to ten Nobel Prize laureates.
Where does this prejudice against Israel come from?
Is it a a corollary of the old obsession with the Jews in the Christian world?

Member
Some1
August 23, 2012 11:27 am

tappanch :
When the crowds and governments demand the creation of a Kurdish or Berber state with the same passion as they demand the creation of the 24th Arab state (the Palestinian), then I might consider them as no longer antisemitic but simply anti-Israeli.

Great crowd. I wonder how much they truly know about history. THey have no clue. THey were there as the usual Jobbik, scum, football hooligan, let’s have a party crew. You really believe that these people understand these conflict? Hungarian Jews have nothing to do with the current politics of Israel, but the same crowd shows up on MTK games and chants the same slogans. What does that have to do with Palestine?

Guest
August 23, 2012 12:17 pm

Some1 :

tappanch :
When the crowds and governments demand the creation of a Kurdish or Berber state with the same passion as they demand the creation of the 24th Arab state (the Palestinian), then I might consider them as no longer antisemitic but simply anti-Israeli.

Great crowd. I wonder how much they truly know about history. THey have no clue. THey were there as the usual Jobbik, scum, football hooligan, let’s have a party crew. You really believe that these people understand these conflict? Hungarian Jews have nothing to do with the current politics of Israel, but the same crowd shows up on MTK games and chants the same slogans. What does that have to do with Palestine?

Guest
tappanch
August 23, 2012 12:24 pm

Hungarian Nazi-minded football hooligans are not important outside Hungary.The US government are pretty important, however. They seem to let Assad murder his own people, Khameini develop his pet A-bomb to exterminate Israel & rule over 70% of the world crude reserves, so it is of little importance for them whether there is tyranny or democracy in Hungary.

Guest
tappanch
August 23, 2012 12:49 pm

Being a member of the less fair sex, I am not an expert – but Mr Hende does not strike me as a veritable Don Juan. Isn’t it possible that her only aim is to make sure that Hungary keeps its few hundred troops in Afghanistan?

Guest
August 23, 2012 12:56 pm

Here is the Amerikai Nepszava article about this subject, unfortunately it is in Hungarian, but I am sure I am not mistaken that most readers speak the language. It is interesting, since it claims that the Hunarian TV showed different pictures that of the Israeli, at the time when the Israeli anthem was played. And of course, MTV accused the Israely channel of altering the broadcast. http://nepszava.com/2012/08/magyarorszag/elo-kozvetitest-manipulalt-a-kiralyi-teve.html

Guest
tappanch
August 23, 2012 1:22 pm

Eva Balogh:
Restarting the Hungarian service of Radio Free Europe would be a good start. Eighty percent of the population of Hungary does not get independent news. When they silence Klubradio in a few months, it will be 90% (10% will listen to it through the internet)

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