Hungary, one of the 14 host nations of the upcoming Euro 2020 football championship, was ruled for 11 years by the uncompromising nationalist Orban, who has ruffled his feathers in recent years with his harsh anti-immigrant and nativist rhetoric.
Orban, who faces his toughest electoral challenge next year after three consecutive landslides against a united opposition, said the Hungarian athletes should “fight on their feet”.
Hungarian fans booed the visiting Irish team for kneeling before their recent match in Budapest, which Ireland manager Stephen Kenny called “incomprehensible”.
However, Orban defended the fans.
“If you are a guest in a country, then understand its culture and don’t provoke it,” Orban said at a press conference. “Do not provoke the guest … We can see this system of gestures only from our cultural point of view as incomprehensible, as provocation”.
“The fans have reacted as those who are provoked to provocation usually react. They don’t always choose the most elegant form (of reaction) but you have to understand their reasons … I agree with the fans.”
England manager Gareth Southgate said his team would not “stick to football” during Euro 2020, while one of his players said the team was united in their stance against racial injustice despite the taunts of some fan.
Orban said he has no sympathy for “this matter on its knees. I don’t think this has any place on the pitch. Sport is about other things.”
He said the gesture spread quickly due to the guilt former slave-holding nations feel towards the descendants of the slaves living among them, adding that Hungary has never had slavery.
“This is a tough and serious moral burden, but each nation must carry this burden alone,” Orban said. “They have to solve it themselves.”