Sports and politics: a football empire and rebellious swimmers

I was pleasantly surprised this morning because, despite the holidays, I found quite a few topics that might interest readers of Hungarian Spectrum. For today’s post I picked two, both having to do with sports and, naturally, politics.

The football empire of Greater Hungary

I had not been aware until now that the Orbán government has been generously supporting football academies outside the borders of the country. The favorite for a long time was the Romanian academy in Csíkszereda/Miercurea Ciuc, where the former mayor Jenő Szász was a political ally of László Kövér and in general a favorite of Fidesz. According to 444.hu, a couple of years ago the Hungarian government gave one billion forints to the Csíkszereda Football Academy. An additional 300 million came from Hungary’s most successful pipefitter, Lőrinc Mészáros, who, in recognition of his generosity, was named an honorary citizen of the city. Apparently, in the final months of 2016 the government gave another billion forints to the Csíkszereda Academy.

Early this year Mészáros also became the “owner” of the NK Osijek (in Hungarian Eszék), Class I football team in eastern Croatia. The Hungarian government was again very generous. One billion forints was given to a center that is supposed feed new talent to the Osijek football team. Naturally, Mészáros’s own firm, Mészáros & Mészáros, is the chief sponsor of the club, but other Hungarian companies favored by the Orbán government also support NK Osijek: TRSZ, Duna Aszfalt, Magyar Épitő, and West Hungária Bau. As Benjamin Novák explains in Budapest Beacon, “a particular corporate tax benefit scheme allows corporations to write off 100 percent of donations made to sport clubs meeting certain criteria.” Transparency International, which investigated the case, “believes such contributions amount to a diversion of corporate taxes from public coffers to private sports clubs, and that for this reason such contributions should technically be regarded as public funds.”

Until now, at least the public could learn the names of the corporations that were generous supporters of Viktor Orbán’s favorite sport. According to the latest plans, however, this information will no longer be available. Business secrets, you know.

NK Osijek’s stadium / Source: Index

The Hungarian government, directly and indirectly, spends an incredible amount of money on football. Just for Christmas, according to the latest government decree, 50 billion forints was poured into the clubs of five spectator sports, most of them, of course, football clubs.

But why is the Hungarian government supporting football academies in the neighboring countries? In addition to Csíkszereda and Osijek, several other football clubs in Ukraine, Slovakia, and Serbia are the beneficiaries of the Hungarian government’s largess. One billion was sent to the football academy in Mukacheve (Munkács), another billion to the football academy in Dunájska Streda (Dunaszerdahely), and three billion to the Délvidék Sport Akadémia in Serbia. (Today’s Voivodina used to be called “Délvidék” or “the southern parts.”)

And why did Mészáros buy a team? A partial answer may be, as Mészáros admitted in a casual conversation with journalists, that the price for Croat and Serb players in the football market is a great deal higher than for those from Hungary.

 

Right-wing attacks against Katinka Hosszú and her American husband

A month ago I covered the struggle between the Hungarian swimmers and Tamás Gyárfás, then president of the Hungarian Swimming Association (Magyar Úszószövetség/MÚSZ). The swimmers’ case was pressed by Katinka Hosszú, the current star of Hungarian swimming.

Katinka Hosszú was victorious. Once Viktor Orbán made it clear that the upheaval in MÚSZ should cease, Gyárfás knew that he would have to resign. Mind you, although he might be despised by the star swimmers, Gyárfás remains popular with the affiliated club managers. A couple of days ago he received the most nominations for the post of president of MÚSZ, although the chance of his regaining his position is close to nil.

At the end of my post on the storm in the swimming pool, I wrote briefly about Hosszú’s American husband and trainer, Shane Tusup, whom the Hungarian swimming establishment resents. Although he is not an easy man to get along with, I came to the conclusion that this resentment has a lot to do with the fact that Tusup is an American, a foreigner. I recalled a television discussion in which the moderator completely lost his cool and abused Tusup, who thinks he is in Uganda instead of Hungary, which is a powerhouse of aquatic sports. He comes here to teach us?

Since then I have encountered many similar reactions to Tusup and, to some extent, to Hosszú as well. Soon after the world championship (25m) ended in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, an opinion piece appeared in Magyar Idők titled “A strange couple.” At that meet Hosszú received seven gold medals, which should have warmed the hearts of all Hungarian nationalists. But, strangely enough, that was not the case. On the contrary, the author of this particular article tried to minimize the importance of her and her husband’s achievement. The author stressed the prominence of Hungarian swimming ever since Alfréd Hajós received two gold medals at the first 1896 Olympic Games. And, he continued, he hasn’t met any “swimming expert” who would “tip his hat” to Shane Tusup, who is internationally recognized and was named “trainer of the year” three times in a row. The author of the article identifies with Sándor Petőfi, who “admired but didn’t like” mountains as opposed to Hungary’s Great Plains. In fact, the locals hate Tusup with such gusto that the Hungarian Swimming Association neglected to mention his trainer-of-the-year award from FINA, the international federation of aquatic sports.

The latest attack came from an extreme right-wing association called Honfoglalás 2000. Honfoglalás is the official historical name for the arrival of Árpád and his tribes in present-day Hungary. Honfoglalás 2000 is best known for its utter devotion to Russia and to Vladimir Putin. 444.hu has written several articles about this strange group, which thinks so highly of Putin that they suggested he should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. They thanked Putin for occupying Crimea. They demonstrated for the Russian-financed Paks Atomic Power Plant with placards reading “Roszatom: Jó atom!” They demanded that Péter Juhász be taken into custody because, according to them, he called on anarchists to commit disorderly acts. You get the idea.

This group had earlier called on the swimmers “to swim and not engage in political discussions.” Tusup’s name appeared in that statement: “We don’t want America (Shane Tusup) to intervene in our sports; we don’t want to introduce American-style, disgusting election campaign style conditions in Hungary. Hajrá Magyarország, hajrá magyarok!” Orbán finishes all his speeches with this sentence, which means roughly “to the finish Hungary, to the finish Hungarians.”

This time Honfoglalás 2000 is convinced that the storm inside the Hungarian Swimming Association was organized by Shane Tusup, who is purposely creating trouble in Hungarian swimming circles and thus jeopardizing the success of the World Aquatic Championships, which will be held in Budapest next year. The reason for his actions? He wants to make sure that the 2024 Olympic Games will be held in Los Angeles and not in Budapest. “Aggressive American politics by now is attacking Hungary even through sports.” The Hungarian swimmers should realize this and should cooperate with the management of the swimming association for the sake of the success of next year’s games. “Those who are not willing to do so can go, for example, to America where they should compete in Hungarian colors—we don’t hold them back.”

One might ignore all this, arguing that these people belong to the lunatic fringe of Hungarian politics. Unfortunately, my sense is that these sentiments are widely shared by those who follow the affairs of the Hungarian Swimming Association. And their numbers are significant because swimming is one of the two most successful Hungarian sports.

December 27, 2016
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petofi
Guest

RE: “…on of the most successful Hungarian sports.”

Yeah, closely on the heels of picking your nose in the neighbourhood ‘sorozo’…

Guest

Do you mean söröző or borozó? 🙂

Rather OT but from everyday Hungarian life:
Many years ago when I went to a bar with my neighbour and wondered why so many people were drinking beer when Hungary had good and inexpensive wines he told me that drinking beer was a kind of show:
I have enough money …

Really poor people on the other hand have to drink fröccs – made from the cheapest wine out of a plastic cannister and soda …

Egészsegedré!

Ferenc
Guest

And really really poor people (try to) make their own wine, and hungry for alcohol start drinking it when not really ready yet. So when containing poisonous alcohol (?), or something like that (don’t know the details here), and can get serious ill (liver problems!).
Heard a stories about such things happening regularly in the Tokaj area!
Cheers!! Best drink bottled wines!!

Member

Giving money to soccer clubs is just a disguise of a lots of tax money given to Fidesz supporters and Fidesz politicians put portion of the money in their own pockets. It is plain robbery, stealing the tax moneys. Only a small fraction of the money goes to the players and sports club workers and equipment. Shoddy workmanship, cheap materials, lousy construction is also the result of this scheme.

If the full amount of the moneys were invested in soccer players since 2010, they could have bought half the talented players from South America and Europe.

A large cut from the budgets of building all the stadiums also goes to the Fidesz, hence they are ugly and poorly designed, poorly constructed, but few people ever notice it, most of the spectators go there to destruct the stadium and to fight each other.

Ferenc
Guest

The first round in this football academy game is laundering of public money (in Hungarian: kaszálni, which literally means to reap). And later on if the academy brings forth good football players, they can reap again, as the European football players market is absolutely going nuts (and even with more and more Russian and Chinese money coming into this game).
Behind all this semi state/Fidesz sponsoring of foreign clubs in former ‘greater Hungary’, I suspect a way of gaining and/or strengthening political influence.
By the way is this also done with this so called ‘TAO’ money, if so this means there are no borders for their system. If Fidesz & Co have so much money to spray around internationally, I recommend they better direct that to humanitarian aid in refugee camps around Syria and other war zones.

Member

I think it would be best, if Katinka Hosszú would swim races as an independent or as an American, and move away from Hungary permanently, move her business enterprise to a safe place.
The Hungarians who are in power now and their predecessors for hundreds of years, are generally chauvinist idiots who chase away talent and people with knowledge, to protect their own lack of abilities, their insecurity and their ingrained hatred of foreigners. It is the prevailing method of being successful in Hungary, without being competitive and the best in something.

Ferenc
Guest

The Hungarian problem with foreign influence in swimming is, like I have said before, Hungarians are too proud for their own good.
As comment to yours, I recommend Katinka Hosszu to NOT move away from Hungary, don’t give in to the currently going negative campaign against her husband (?) coach. Best just prove the vicious attackers wrong each and every time by winning, and especially when possible at the World Championships in Hungary itself!!

Regarding the ‘Honfoglalás 2000’ bunch, I’m wondering which style of (election) campaign they consider the least disgusting: American democrats/republicans style, Russian/Putin style, US Trump style, Dutch Wilders style *or OV/Fidesz style.
*don’t know this one? search for the picture of Merkel he twittered after the Berlin terror attack (best arrange an empty bucket before looking at it)

Guest

That Merkel picture was “shared” on facebook by a woman my wife had considered a “friend”, who’s also filling facebook with “Christian” images – you can’t imagine how angry my wife got and the words she used for that woman! These people are so horrible and full of hate!
But they call themselves Christians …
If I hadn’t lost religion at the tender age of six years I’d do it now!

Ferenc
Guest

Is there anything you can do legally against such pictures and/or the people making them? My first thoughts:
1.original picture might have copyright
2.picture is manipulated, so not true
etc…
Any ideas?

Roderick Beck
Guest

Doing so would violate freedom of expression. We need fight Fidesz without adopting its values.

Roderick Beck
Guest

At six years? You were precocious. I left the Church when I was twelve.

Guest

I’ve told that story often:

I was happily awaiting going to school with my friends and neighbours – we were a group of boys always playing together.
And then I was told that they would go to another school – because they were Catholics and I was a Protestant evangelisch as we say in Germany.
The crazy thing about this:
We were in the same old school building which had been divided by a new wall after the end of WW2 and we had different times for school beginning, breaks etc so we became strangers soon …
And since it was a small town, both schools were so called “dwarf schools” i e there always were two years of pupils or more in one class – not very efficient!

Later we tried to discuss this idiocy with our teachersw, even the head teacher of the Gymnasium – but no way. That made my friends and me very angry and after we left the Gymnasium we broke all contact with the teachers. Of course we were afraid to rebel before that time – until the late 60s the “Christians” aka clerical fascists were in power, a really ugly bunch and at university we fought against them!

Member

Just a tiny refinement: Alfréd Hajós won the silver medals as a champion at that Olympic Games, because the gold medal was introduced later.

Member

Net financial position of the Hungarian state after a year of “peacock dance”
(i.e. shuffling the assets & debt between the National Bank MNB and the Treasury AKK)

in billions of euros, using the official MNB exchange rates.

+[international reserves of MNB]
– [non-HUF debt of the central government]
– [HUF denominated debt of the central government]:

2015-11-30: 33.140-29.324-52.568 = -48.752
2016-11-30: 25.151-22.730-59.234 = -56.813

Source: my calculation using the official data.

The plan for 2017:
increase the new debt by “only” 3.8 billion euros.

Source:
http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20161228_varga_barcza_hitel_tartozas

Roderick Beck
Guest

The Hungarian government’s definition of public debt is flawed. It excludes the liability of the Exim Bank. Eurostate has been in a long debate with the Hungarian statistical agency regarding the definition of public debt.

bimbi
Guest

This is a distressing subject. The theft of so much tax money done by prime ministerial decree is an obscenity. Right at the start of his footie rip-off Orban lied about the source of funding saying that no tax money was used. Yet it goes on – a billion here, a billion there, multi-billion somewhere else being spread around “greater Hungary” (yuck, yuck) by Orban’s largesse. At this rate of theft Orban should be ending his famous speeches with those unforgettable words:

“Bazzd meg a Magyart!” Because that is what Hungarians get from this man.

bimbi
Guest
This blog entry brings into focus another piece of Orbán sport insanity – the bid for the Olympic Games in 2024. All the tax theft that Orbán can produce in Hungary is not going to be able to cover the deficit of a Budapest Olympic games. Stop the madness now! In the face of the utterly dismal economic record of this regime over the past 6 ½ years, the dismally low wages, the unemployment, the child and adult poverty, the homelessness, the hopelessness (balanced of course by the majestic industrial scale theft and insider trading on which the government thrives, the Rogán residency rip-off, the Mészaros “miracle (from munkás to millionaire in months), the Orbán/Quaestor nexus and the corruption of the media, the judiciary and the great pension theft), now the Dear Leader decides to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games! Here is a challenge to our brave Hungarian athletes of every stripe. Let each and every one of them – and we are told they all support the Olympic bid 100% – commit to giving every forint in medal incentives from the government to a national fund to feed the hungry and help the poor in the country they… Read more »
bimbi
Guest

Is it not time that opposition to the Orbán 2024 Olympic madness gelled into a coordinated movement?

We have been told by so-well-informed Budapest mayor Tarlos (ignorant oaf) that the public does not know enough to make an informed decision so there was no referendum.

C’mon folks, time to say, “No, No, No, not with my tax money!”.

Pro-sanity, anti-Olympics, no Orbán madness in 2024!!!

Roderick Beck
Guest

The Hungarian Olympic proposal is not credible. The budget is 3.2 billion Euros. A tiny fraction of what most countries, including the poorer ones like Greece, spend to the host the Games. Moreover, every economic analysis reaches the same conclusion: hosting the Games is a net loss. The real surplus is generated by the Olympic Committee. They make the money.

Guest

Yes, that’s why the people of the relatively rich city of Hamburg (which hasn’t had the Games before, so some people were very eager …) decided in a referendum against holding the Games!

And I’m sure that the people of Budapest would do the same – if they were asked …
But of course Fidesz would never allow a referendum (neither local nor for all Hungarians) on a topic like that where they might lose!

petofi
Guest

If my guess is right, Russia will back the Hungarian Olympics by financial guarantees….and after, the Russkies and Orban will celebrate the bankruptcy of the country.

Sic transit Hungaria..

HAJRA MAGYAROK!!

bimbi
Guest

That way too, Orbán would ensure getting the latest drugs, methods and schedules for loading up the Hungarian athletes with Ruskie Chemistry to ensure his own continued glory.

Athletes as puppets in the service of state propaganda (again).

bimbi
Guest

Who cares what the current budget is or whether it is “too low”? Orbán certainly does not. He chooses a low figure to make the Budapest bid look sleek, efficient and attractive. The (inevitable) cost overruns come later – and then, after the Great Carpathian Basin Games, who cares?

We cannot be complacent about this gigantic money washing/theft machine!

I gollum
Guest
Don’t forget that Honfoglalas 2000 is probably a joint Hungarian-Russian state security operation and Tamas Gyarfas also has a bit of a murky past when it comes to connections with the Ministry of Interior under communism as well as after communism. All the Hungarian national sports associations have many people in their leadership who are in reality work for the Ministry of Interior or whatever the name of the state security agency these days (actually there are now at least half a dozen security-intelligence agencies) and who can utilize such positions to make some easy money on the side. Sports just like under communism is an extremely important domestic policy area closely monitored by the Ministry of Interior. Not just in Russia (where we know now that FSB controlled and day to day managed the national doping infrastructure) but in Hungary too. That’s just the way it is. Since Orban came to power in 2010 state security’s involvement is probably even bigger than before. I think Orban actively encourages the corruption of such elements because this naturally makes them allies of the system. The loyalty of the state security is paramount. As such these attacks against Tusup surely have state… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
Hungary makes Brietbart news, http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/12/28/hungary-must-stop-encouraging-immigration-trump-will-good-europe-world/#disqus_thread Brietbart news is a far right of center blog was edited by Steve Bannon who has been appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump. Glenn Beck who has a right wing national radio show in the USA, says Bannon is a “nightmare” and once compared him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Trump supposedly reads the blog regularly and so very possibly he would have seen the article on Hungary. Among the 300 comments on this article were several praising Orban. For example this one: “God Bless Orban for speaking the truth since the very beginning on the fake fugee invasion of Europe. Trump and Brexit were just the beginning of a move for nationalism to defeat globalism, and 2017 promises to be even better!” Others praise Hungarian Islamaphobia: “Hungary knows the results of an invasion of muslims. Idiot EU cannot learn the lessons of history. The middle(ages) eastern “refugees” are not immigrants, they are an invading force and the Europeans are committing cultural and national suicide at the expense of their citizenry who bear the brunt of the rape, molestation, assaults, robbery, and murder at the hands of the islamofscists who will… Read more »
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