Racism of Hungarian Football Fans Reflects Europe-wide Xenophobia
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Monday September 27 2021
Earlier this month, England’s World Cup qualifier victory over Hungary was tarnished by the racist abuse directed towards black English players by some Hungarian fans throughout the game. In the aftermath of such appalling scenes, criticism was levelled at FIFA, the governing body of international football, for allowing the game to take place in a full stadium, despite past displays of racism from sections of the Hungarian fans. Perhaps most worryingly, it must be said that such a display of racism is nothing new and is rather a mere reflection of the wider environment of xenophobia and racism present throughout Europe.
Racism continues to be a reoccurring feature at football games. From the very start, England’s match was heavily marred by the racism displayed by some Hungarian fans. Shortly before kick-off, English players were booed for taking the knee. Following this, black players Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were subjected to monkey chants, and after England’s third goal a flare was thrown onto the pitch. Concerningly, the Hungarian Football Association only received punishment after a significant international outcry. This limited repercussion and the normalisation of racism and xenophobia in parts of Europe arguably spurs on fans to re-offend and continue their propagation of racism and hate.
The racism displayed by Hungary’s fans reflects an indifference to racism which has entrenched itself within Hungary’s football culture. The country has been accused of having a long history of racism and xenophobia, which still persists in parts of Budapest like Ferencvaros, Ujpest and Honved where monkey chanting, white power tattoos and ‘Aryan Ultra’ flags is commonly found. In addition to this, the government of Hungary is known for its anti-migration policies, considered to be in breach of international human rights conventions.
Since turning the issue of alleged illegal migration into a fully-fledged political campaign, anti-migration policies under the Prime Minister Viktor Orban are now associated with protecting the country against ‘Islamic terrorism’. Far-right experts have suggested that white supremacist sentiments have found a place in football culture and the racism displayed by Hungarian fans is an inevitable by-product of this. Ultimately, Hungary’s situation is not unique as this kind of racist and Islamophobic culture can be found throughout Europe, with devastating consequences for Muslims, minority communities and migrants fleeing war zones.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson took to Twitter to rightfully voice his outrage at the racism subjected towards England’s black players as he called on FIFA to take action against the perpetrators. However, recent actions contradict his stance, as recently the Prime Minister refused to condemn English fans for booing the England team for taking the knee. Consequently, there is a worrying indication of double standards from the UK Government when it comes to condemning racism. It is concerning to see that presently there is very little being done to address the issue of racism and hatred adequately and in its totality. Ultimately, the permeation of politics and racism prevalent in Europe, that is manifested in sports – particularly football – defeats the purpose of solidarity and togetherness that it aims to bring.
In light of this, MEND urges policymakers to take tangible actions to combat racist sentiments and associations with far-right attitudes. One such way would be addressing far-right activities online as the movements of far-right sympathisers are widespread online through encrypted forums and groups. This exposes vulnerable individuals to hateful content which could potentially lure them to propagate far-right attitudes and in extreme cases, carry out far-right motivated attacks.