Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban defended football fans who booed the ‘take a knee’ gesture before a game against Ireland, asserting that the display was a “provocation” and is only being performed in some European countries due to their historical guilt over slavery.
Irish players took a knee before the match on Tuesday evening, but they were roundly booed by thousands of supporters in Budapest, while Hungarian players remained standing.
Orban, a fiery populist and immigration hardliner, responded by saying it was the duty of Hungarian athletes to “fight standing up.”
Despite Ireland coach Stephen Kenny insisting the fans’ negative reaction was “incomprehensible,” Orban defended their decision to jeer.
“If you’re a guest in a country then understand its culture and do not provoke it,” Orban told a press conference. “Do not provoke the host… We can only see this gesture system from our cultural vantage point as unintelligible, as provocation.”
“The fans reacted the way those who are provoked usually react to provocation. They do not always choose the most elegant form (of reaction) but we have to understand their reasons… I agree with the fans,” he added, noting that he had no sympathy for a gesture which shouldn’t have “any place on the pitch.”
Reuters reported that Orban asserted, “the gesture spread as fast as it did because of a guilt that former slave-holding nations feel to the slaves’ descendants living amongst them, adding that Hungary never had slavery.”
“This is a hard, serious moral burden, but every nation must carry this burden on their own,” Orban said. “They need to sort this out themselves.”
As we previously highlighted, Premier League club Brentford will become the first team in the top flight to say its staff will refuse to ‘take a knee’ before the start of games next season, with players arguing the gesture has become meaningless.
England international players have also been booed while taking a knee before both of their recent games, prompting manager Gareth Southgate to insist the action will continue throughout the Euro 2020 tournament, despite its divisive and demoralizing effect.
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