Tomasz Mortimer examines the variety of responses to the ugliest of problems.
Racism seems to be a problem all over Europe. Recently in Bulgaria we got the monkey chants directed towards Ashley Young, in Russia we’ve had Roberto Carlos pelted with bananas, but in Hungary, racism seems to fly under the radar and no-one ever seems to pick up on it or even notice it at all.
When I last went over to Hungary, I went to watch two NBI games in Budapest, the first at Vasas, the second at Ferencváros. The contrast couldn’t be bigger. On one hand you have Vasas, a nice family club where the fans sit down and have a fairly relaxed time with their pretzels and sunflower seeds - cheering the boys on, no matter if they’re winning or losing. But down the round at the Florian Albert Stadion it’s like a war for the fans, if the team isn’t playing well, abuse is directed at all parties, not least the black players.
At the particular game I went to see Liban Abdi, Ferencváros’ only black player, scored within 4 minutes, so automatically you’d have thought he’d be free from the abuse for today at least? Not at all. 50 minutes later when the score was 1-1, and the opposition were down to 9 men, a simple misplaced pass was greeted with monkey noises and a torrent of abuse towards the Norwegian.
It was an absolute disgrace, but it seemed to be the norm around the ground. DVTK, Fradi’s opponents that day, also had three black players which couldn’t escape the cruelty either. Every touch of the ball and the so-called Ultras behind the goal would pretend to be from the jungle. The sad thing is, the children were joining in too. See, they don’t know right from wrong. If they witness their Dad and his “pals” doing monkey actions, they want to join in too. All good fun isn’t it for a 10 year old?
I felt like wanting to say something, but you knew if you stood up and condemned the beasts, you’d be abused yourself, or maybe even beaten up.
Fradi fans in general are known to be Neo-Nazi’s. Just ask any Milwall fan from when they played against each other in the UEFA Cup 7 years ago. Milwall’s black players were the subject of some awful abuse, and again, nothing was done about it.
That’s why the club have introduced a new ID scheme which means that if you are to buy a ticket for Ferencváros, you have to have a membership card first. Well that’s easy then isn’t it? Fan gets caught directing racist abuse at a player - automatic 3 year ban and take away their membership card.
But that never happens. There’s only the odd steward in the ground anyway so it can’t be controlled plus fans can still get into games without their membership card. They just get their mates to buy them a ticket. Easy.
I’m laying in to the Ferencváros fans a bit here, but it is seen across the country. If you just watch an NBI game on telly you can hear quite clearly, the abuse that some black players receive. But the thing is, the commentator’s never pick up on it. I don’t know if it’s because it has become the norm in Hungary or that they’d rather concentrate on the game. However if you compare that to England; when the Bulgarian fans were abusing the England players, the Sky commentators noticed it straight away, alerting the viewers to the awful goings-on in the crowd. This meant the fans knew of the problem, which would have just been glossed over in Hungary.
When I went to see Holland vs Hungary in Amsterdam last March you knew as soon as the Eljero Elia entered the field he was going to be abused. And sure enough he was. Who were the culprits? Yep, the Fradi Ultras - they had it written across the back of their jackets.
But for once, this was different, people actually started fighting back against the racists. There were pockets of fans – I like to think of them as Vasas supporters – who were condemning the thugs, who were telling the racists where to go, and this was actually heart-warming. There was only about 15 bigots in the crowd, where as there was about 50 chanting back.
As in most countries, it seems to be the minority who are the problem, but while there is no punishment against the crime, it’s only going to continue and spread throughout the generations. If nothing is done to combat this from within Hungary, UEFA need to step in soon or else it will be the Vasas army who are left to rise up.