Hungary, one of 14 host nations of the upcoming 2020 European Football Championship, has been ruled for 11 years by the hardliner nationalist Orban, who in recent years has disheveled with his tough, anti-immigrant, nativist rhetoric.
Orban, facing his toughest electoral challenge after three straight landslides against united opposition next year, said Hungarian athletes are expected to “fight standing up”.
Hungarian fans whistled the Irish away team for kneeling before the latest game in Budapest, which Ireland coach Stephen Kenny described as “incomprehensible”.
Orban defended the fans, however.
“When you are a guest in a country, understand its culture and do not provoke it,” Orban said at a press conference. “Do not provoke the host … From our cultural perspective, we can only view this system of gestures as incomprehensible, as a provocation.”
“The fans reacted the way those who are provoked usually react to provocation. They don’t always choose the most elegant form (of reaction), but we have to understand their reasons … I agree with the fans.”
England coach Gareth Southgate said his team will not “just stick to football” during Euro 2020, while one of his players said the squad was united in its anti-racial stance despite the mockery of some fans.
Orban said he had no sympathy for “this kneeling matter. I don’t think there is any place for that on the pitch. Sport is about other things.”
He said the gesture spread just as quickly as it was due to a guilt former slave-owning nations felt towards the descendants of the slaves living among them, adding that Hungary never had slavery.
“This is a heavy, serious moral burden, but each nation has to shoulder the burden itself,” Orban said. “You have to sort that out yourself.”