There was a time when Hungary was at the forefront of world football. Throughout the 1950s the Mighty Magyars dominated nearly each team they came across, going unbeaten for two years before losing the 1954 World Cup final to West Germany. It has been a sharp fall from grace from the days of Puskas, Hidegkuti and co. that the team is now defined by its neo-Nazi ultras that have repeatedly made the news over the past few years for violent action.
WHO ARE THE HUNGARIAN FANS IN BLACK TSHIRTS
The neo-Nazi tendencies of the Hungarian fans did not start with their current fans. The 1970s and 80s saw increasing violence in the stadiums as the Communist society in Eastern Europe declined.
The hooliganism continued into the 21st century and in 2009, the Hungarian government formed the Carpathian Brigade in an attempt to bring fan groups across the political and social spectrum together and create an atmosphere of unity.
Initially, the plan worked to some extent but fragmentation was inevitable given the polar opposite beliefs of the supporters. As the stakes increased in matches, whether due to rivalries as with Romania, or in big tournaments, the violent tendencies re-emerged.
VIOLENCE AND ABUSE BY THE HUNGARIAN FANS
In 2016, the Brigade clashed for the first time with the stewards at the Euros in France. The Carpathian Brigade, identified by their colour coordinated black t-shirts, grew in numbers and came to be dominated by the Conservative faction as leftists and liberals distanced themselves from the group.
This summer at the Euros too they walked around with an air of terror about them in the streets and were integral figures in the controversy surrounding the rainbow flags at the Euros. Cheered on by the right-wing Fidesz government led by Viktor Orban, the group has repeatedly engaged in homophobic and racist behaviour towards players as well as opposing fans.
How do Wembley, the FA, FIFA and Met police not expect what happened with Hungary fans to occur? It’s been telegraphed for months. And then, initially send a bunch of low wage, poorly trained stewards – mainly black and Asian – to watch over them. 🤯
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) October 13, 2021
Last month in the World Cup qualifier against England in Budapest, the fans abused Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham which led to a stadium ban. UEFA and FIFA though failed to take a strong stance, as was the case in the Euros, and Hungary was allowed to have a travelling supporter group when they played England again at Wembley last night.
At Wembley, one of the supporters was caught engaging in racist abuse again and as the stewards entered the Hungary end to take him away, things got ugly. The stewards were outnumbered and were forced to retreat before order was restored, if you can call it that.
RESOLVING THE ISSUE
The problem with the Carpathian Brigade is the unparalleled support received from the government. Abusive behaviour in football stadiums is by no stretch of the imagination an issue of Hungary but perhaps no other group across Europe receives the validation from official channels that the Brigade does.
#UPDATE UEFA's refusal to allow Munich to illuminate the #AllianzArena in rainbow colours for Wednesday's Germany-Hungary #EURO2020 match in support of the LGBT community was the "right decision", Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Tuesday https://t.co/lgLqd6yioF pic.twitter.com/n0A2bLOROU
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) June 22, 2021
Even Boris Johnson and Priti Patel condemned the racist abuse faced by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after the trio missed penalties in the Euro final against Italy. Hungary’s government though supports the group not only in the media but also pressurizes UEFA to be lax in their punishments.
UEFA of course cannot be the authority that tackles racism in the wider society but the responsibility to keep such actions out of football stadiums lies firmly in its purview. To fulfill its duties though, UEFA needs to be free of political pressures. This is far from the case today and not just with respect to this issue. The federation has failed to take any proper measures against FFP violations, sportswashing and more.
A long-term ban should be the first course of action, one that extends to away games as well. If the abuse and violence fails to cease, then UEFA needs to take a look at excluding Hungary from the next cycle of Euros. The freedom with which the Carpathian Brigade continues to be a social threat needs to be curbed.