by William Nattrass
Wednesday, 15
June 2022
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11:51

Why Hungarians boo taking the knee

Central Europeans do not take kindly to lectures on privilege
by William Nattrass
Kneeling their way to a thrashing last night. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Hungarians are celebrating today — and not just because their football team thrashed England 4-0 at Molineux last night. They also see a moral dimension in the victory, with headlines focusing on the booing of the Hungarian national anthem and chants of “you racist bastards” from England fans, after previous controversy over England ‘taking the knee’ at an away match in Budapest on June 4. 

  

At the Budapest game — supposed to be played behind-closed-doors due to racism from Hungarian fans at Euro 2020 — the gesture was booed by a crowd of 35,000 schoolchildren allowed to watch the game by the Hungarian FA. After heavy criticism from England manager Gareth Southgate and his players, along with widely reported comments in the British media about “brainwashed” Hungarian youth, a Hungarian government spokesperson bullishly said “anyone who thinks that children at a football match in Budapest can be blamed for any kind of political statement is truly an idiot.” 

Yet the glee with which yesterday’s victory was greeted suggests Hungarians took English criticisms to heart. And while rejection of the western stance on anti-racism is becoming another key marker of Hungary’s cultural independence, this difference isn’t limited to Hungary alone. Throughout Central Europe, many football fans would side with Viktor Orbán in regarding England’s anti-racism stance as a “provocation.”  

The controversy in Budapest recalled a match between Sparta Prague and Glasgow Rangers last year, when a crowd of 10,000 children booed Glen Kamara, the Rangers player whose allegations of racism saw star Czech defender Ondřej Kúdela banned from Euro 2020. A diplomatic crisis erupted after Czechs were described as “rotten fruit” by a Scottish Football Association equality and diversity advisor. 

While there’s clearly a problem with racism in Central European football, the issue has become entwined with wider attitudes towards cultural developments in the West. Hungarians, Czechs, and others do not take kindly to what they see as the patronising educational intent of Britain’s anti-racism drive. 

‘Taking the knee’, for example, is more than a personal confession; it’s a “public gesture” aimed at others. Southgate confirmed this after the Budapest controversy, when he said his players take the knee with the intention “to educate people around the world.” 

Hungarians and Czechs react badly to such statements partly because they do not believe the English have any right to lecture them about racial politics. These countries were not oppressive colonial powers, and they have so far been left relatively untouched by globalisation — so they don’t see the need for a moral reckoning with either their past or their present. To many, the educational mission professed by England reflects a curiously self-centred view of the world.  

Yet along with the sense that ‘taking the knee’ isn’t applicable, there’s an awareness that the gesture is rooted in notions of ‘white privilege’ which tend to be applied universally, without regard for the specific history of a particular social group. Countries which have been oppressed within living memory, after struggling for the preservation of their cultures — even their languages — not much further back in the past, find this inexplicable.   

‘Taking the knee’ attracts boos and controversy precisely because figures like Southgate imply that regardless of their own past or present, Hungarians, Czechs, and others should all bow their heads in shame too. No matter how much criticism is levelled at them from abroad, football fans from these countries will continue to reject those who tell them to do so. 

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago

The Hungarians are quite right to take offence at the England team taking the knee “to educate people around the world”. It is one thing to take the knee in one’s own country, although I regard it as a misguided adoption of a piece of US originated race politics that should not be imported to the UK, but it is quite another thing to ostentatiously parade one’s supposed racial virtue “to educate the world” in another country. That is incredibly discourteous.
England had a perfectly good “kick out racism” program to address the few idiots that sought to wind up black players by racist provocations. It did not need to adopt a gesture originated in the US by the dubiously ethical political organisation Black Lives Matter. It is no more than cultural cringe to the US that this gesture was adopted.
It is particularly insensitive to adopt this gesture in Hungary given that between 1526 and 1650 enormous numbers of Hungarians were sold into slavery in the Muslim slave markets since this fact attracts no attention in the world of anti-racism.

David Bell
David Bell
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It’s not just the Hungarians and Czechs. Many at home are fed up of the patronising arrogance of Southgate and his team of fools.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  David Bell

And greeted the Hungarian victory with quiet satisfaction.
Of course on England player dare not take the knee

John McKee
John McKee
1 month ago
Reply to  David Bell

Especially since Southgate sent out one penalty kicker after another who CHOKED on the football World’s biggest stage. He should have been dismissed for this egregious failure of coaching judgment.

Paulics János
Paulics János
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Hungarian children were sold !!!1526-1700
However, I do not see any football players of gypsy origin in England coming to this conclusion … Racism?

Last edited 1 month ago by Paulics János
Paulics János
Paulics János
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I have an idea: Descend to two (!) Knees before each game! Prayed with your hands!
For the tens of thousands of Christians who have recently been murdered in Africa !! Blacks !!
But for everyone, Buddhist, Muslim, Anglican …. Catholic, Atheist.
for everyone!!
I wonder how tolerant this gesture would be ???

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Not merely “incredibly discourteous” – breathtakingly arrogant!

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
1 month ago

Hungary – i.e. Hungarians – have every legal and moral right to object to the England team, manager and FA. This sense of outrage is shared by the majority of England fans, not because of racism, but because we do not want to be persistently lectured to about their pet topic.

They do it in public, they admit it is to “educate people”, when they have not yet learnt themselves “we are footballers, so let’s not dream of preaching to our fans, who we depend on for our ridiculously good salaries and perks, on what we think they should be doing differently with their lives”.

If the players kept it a personal tribute and went on one or both knees in their changing room, fans would not object.

England is about the least racist country in the world. Our demographics, laws, achievements, culture, sports all show incredible diversity and tolerance. Just don’t overdo trying to make us feel we are not kind, fair and tolerant.

Hungary and the rest of the Visegrad countries have suffered enough oppression in their lives. As Slavic nations it was their people, over centuries, that gave rise to the universal term “slave”. So they need not be lectured on by woke, do-gooder descendants from our widely admired British Empire – the best of all Empires!

Last edited 1 month ago by Kiat Huang
Katrin W.
Katrin W.
1 month ago
Reply to  Kiat Huang

Hungary is not a Slavic nation.

Kovács Péter
Kovács Péter
1 month ago
Reply to  Katrin W.

You are right but we Hungarians, still experienced to be taken slaves by the Mongolians, Tatars and the Ottoman empire between the 13-18 centuries. For example today Turkey has dozens of so called Macarköy’s (Hungarian villages), which were founded by the Hungarians taken as slaves from Hungary. Today they are Turks, but they still remember their Hungarian origin, and when a Hungarian visits them, they receive him, as their brother. The Ottomans even brought Hungarian slaves as far as Egypt and Northern Sudan. In these two countries live the tribe of the Magyarabs (Hungarian Arabs). They still remember their Hungarian origin.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago
Reply to  Kovács Péter

Thanks for a very interesting piece of history/ethnography. Those who so presumptuously used to intone “educate yourself” to those failing to acknowledge the unique horror of the transatlantic slave trade would, of course, have been entirely ignorant of such history.

Katrin W.
Katrin W.
1 month ago
Reply to  Kovács Péter

Your point is…? I only added a small factual correction you seem to be reading into.

Paulics János
Paulics János
1 month ago
Reply to  Katrin W.

But the WEST does not know this, the Hungarians were taken as slaves in the same way …

Katrin W.
Katrin W.
1 month ago
Reply to  Paulics János

I have not questioned any of that, just pointed out that we are not a Slavic nation.

Paulics János
Paulics János
1 month ago
Reply to  Kiat Huang

Just what we Hungarians are:
We are still, in England, maids, waiters, cooks ….

Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
1 month ago

Agree 100% with this article. Let me assure the writer that there is a lot of discomfort and cynicism about “taking the knee” in the UK and among England football fans, even though we have no truck with racism which is wrong, no argument there. Please don’t assume that establishment figures like Southgate and media voices like the BBC speak for everyone here – they most certainly do not. Every time I see footballers “take the knee”, particularly the England team when playing overseas, I cringe at this cliched, pointless and divisive gesture.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago

And promptly support he other team

Phil Zeni
Phil Zeni
1 month ago

If I want an opinion from someone who chases a ball, I’ll ask my dog.

John McKee
John McKee
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Zeni

Best thing I have read all week!!!!!!!

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
1 month ago

It was incredibly crass of Southgate to make that statement, all the more so that at this time the England team is not educating anyone is the way to score goals. But I’m not surprised Southgate used the term ‘educate’, a patronising desire to educate is implicit in all virtue signalling. There are nascent signs that wokedom may have eased over its zenith and I await the first football club board to have the courage to drop the self conscious, awkward and embarrassing display. Im sure fans would welcome that. (there may be clubs already there, of which I am unaware).

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago

Thankfully the reactions of thousands of young Hungarians proves that no many subversive Sorosbucks you throw at them, the people there won’t be bribed into self-hatred and demoralisation.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
1 month ago

Is this perhaps a case of the right instinct for the wrong reasons? It is patronizing to shove racial essentialism and the assumption of all-pervasive, metaphysical “ilk-crime” down people’s throats. (As John McWhorter has most eloquently argued — among many others — this becomes a form of ill-mannered evangelism; people might rightly get annoyed with is as with any other form of aggressive evangelism.) Opposing it for Orban’s set of reasons may be foolish, but the mere opposition to it may be far from foolish.

Paulics János
Paulics János
1 month ago

I have an idea: Descend to two (!) Knees before each game! Prayed with your hands!
For the tens of thousands of Christians who have recently been murdered in Africa !! Blacks !!
But for everyone, Buddhist, Muslim, Anglican …. Catholic, Atheist.
for everyone!!
I wonder how tolerant this gesture would be ???

Last edited 1 month ago by Paulics János
David Harris
David Harris
1 month ago

“Hungarians, Czechs, and others do not take kindly to what they see as the patronising educational intent of Britain’s anti-racism drive. ”
And neither do millions of Brits.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 month ago

Why anyone thinks that atheletes should be making these genstures to educate us at the beginning of sports events I don’t know. I daresay I have as much historical knowledge as the vast majority of football players and as much ability to take account of my links to the past.
I keep wondering, what is next? Will the cast of sitcoms insist we watch them take the knee before the episode begins? Or my doctor could do it before performing my pap smear? (He at least is a black man, so might have some interesting thoughts about racism.)

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

as I keep begging, please, someone.. DEFINE ” racism”?

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
1 month ago

Bob Marley did (in “War”): “the philosophy which hold one race superior and another inferior.” Notice this definition makes individual agents responsible, and says nothing about positionality. Nobody gets an automatic pass (or a criminal conviction) simply because of identity. It’s like Forrest Gump’s mama said about stupid: racist is as racist does.

Andrew Thomson
Andrew Thomson
1 month ago

Bob Marley was actually citing Haile Selassie’s 1963 address to the UN.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Thomson

Touche. Thank you for the update.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Thomson

Emperor Haile Selassie, his imperial majesty.

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
1 month ago

“racism” is a term with multiple meanings around personal characteristics of race, colour and even culture, with no universal agreement, so that it’s indiscriminate usage is often flawed and frequently rejected.

N Forster
N Forster
1 month ago

As far as CRT goes, racism = “Prejudice + power” There is actually no racial quality mentioned in the equation. It makes no sense. But that is because CRT is not interested in prejudice (which it endorses) it is concerned only with the transferal of power.

Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
1 month ago

The England team have the right to take the knee, and the spectators – of whatever nationality – are likewise entitled to react (legally and peacefully) in any way they wish. England has no right to do this and demand any specific reaction in return. That’s the kind of arrogance and self-absorption this article rightly calls out.

John Vaccaro
John Vaccaro
1 month ago

i have no problem with Hungarian fans booing this pointless, virtue signalling gesture. I was booing the awful defending and lack of creativity from the England team myself.

Borsos Endre
Borsos Endre
1 month ago

This is a very good approach. However, I feel like some reflections might lead us closer to understanding the subject.
I think the article does not reflect its title. The answer to the question „Why Hungarians boo taking the knee” would be that they boo because they are unable to accept an insulting gesture with dignity. I never boo at any gesture, and I also advise my children not to do so. Booing is inappropriate, even if the gesture in question is obviously meant to be a provocation.
So, the real question is, why do many Hungarians (including myself) think that the English team is addressing an insult to us by taking the knee.
The answer is perfectly enlightened by Mr Southgate’s expression of his mission of „educating people”. Some overpaid millionaires, (whose high salaries are not independent of the fact that their country accumulated extreme wealth by colonizing half the world), want to teach a lesson to the crowd of the Puskás Aréna about how to become a better person by kneeling for a minute or so.  Putting aside how hypocritic this gesture is in itself, it is the perfect symbol of colonial attitude, suggesting that team England is completing a civilizer mission, just like the British East-India company did in its own times. The message is “we are morally superior to you, so you should do what we tell you to do”.  The hypocrisy is made even more evident by the vandalization of the Hungarian Anthem by the English crowd chanting about “racist bastards”, the “racists” meaning people (Hungarian team + fans, or perhaps all Hungarians) who belong to an under-human class, and as such, they do not deserve dignity. The already “educated” English fans have learned well from Mr Southgate and the likes that before aggressing another group of humans, you better call them “racists”, instead of offering them bananas). If you do so, you have earned the public permission (including that of UEFA) to aggress them.
This is not to deny that a good share of Hungarian football fans has racism problems. Being less “educated”, they would still call their foes “gipsies”, or “monkeys” instead of the way more sophisticated codeword “racists”. Should Mr Southgate succeed with his educational programme in Budapest, in a few years we will hear them singing “we hate you racist Romania”. However, the real solution should not be to turn them into more hypocritical aggressors but to ban them from the stadiums until they learn to control themselves. Taking the knee will not do the trick.   
No matter how hard I try, I cannot find the relation between kneeling and fighting against racism. If these guys feel guilty for earning incredible amounts of money because they happened to become stars in an ex-colonizer country, they can pick up some of their fortunes, and find someplace in the Third World where they can use it to do some good stuff. In silence, if possible, not in the focus of all cameras of the world.
As for Mr. Southgate, he would do better to use his teaching ambitions to educate some other start about how inappropriate it is to shit in bed. 

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 month ago

1stly, in my view, call the public gesture of “taking the knee‘ for what it is – genuflection. The players are signalling their reverence to a sacralised identity group – one, as Eric Kaufmann describes, that is deemed to be sacred and holy in terms of their lived experience, and their knowledge from that. Hence the booing is deemed by Southgate to be blasphemy in all but name.
These countries were not oppressive colonial powers, […] so they don’t see the need for a moral reckoning with either their past or their present.
The author seems to be saying that because England was an oppressive colonial power there is a need for a moral reckoning with its past and present. If my interpretation is correct he is promulgating a postcolonial theory view of history. Such a political ideological view, I would argue, is both puerile and specious for presuming to see such a need in ahistorical moral terms at least.

Paulics János
Paulics János
1 month ago

I have an idea: You have to get down to two (!) Knees before each game! Prayed with your hands!
For the tens of thousands of Christians who have recently been murdered in Africa !! Blacks !!
But for everyone, Buddhist, Muslim, Anglican …. Catholic, Atheist.
everyone has to do it that way!
I wonder how tolerant this gesture would be ???

Last edited 1 month ago by Paulics János
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago

I’d boo theml if I ever got the chance. If an opposing team demonstrated for ‘Meat is Murder’, or ‘Kaffirs go to hell’, would you boo them? Or worse?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

Its called ” Freedom of expression”

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago

While English fans boo other nations’ anthems, no English player or official has the right to lecture others. Express your opinion by all means but then listen to others expressing theirs.

David Bell
David Bell
1 month ago

With their arrogant condescension the England team get the reception they deserve.

Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston
1 month ago

Orwell said that salvation lies with the proles.
Perhaps it lies with Hungary.

x y
x y
1 month ago

Britain had been trading slaves for centuries, abusing and exploiting nations around the world (from Africa to Asia and America) and now they realized that racism is bad, so they try educate nations which never participated in colonisation and the afforementioned activities that it’s bad…

Steve White
Steve White
1 month ago

Exelent points! Bavo! 

Rhys Mason-Dunn
Rhys Mason-Dunn
1 month ago

.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rhys Mason-Dunn
Jane Tomlin
Jane Tomlin
1 month ago

The BBC reported that the Hungarians booed and the sports presenter, Gavin, said – (that is) not a good look.

Paulics János
Paulics János
1 month ago
Reply to  Jane Tomlin

However, I do not see any football players of gypsy origin in England coming to this conclusion … Racism?

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 month ago

What a load of waffle. This is why they are booing and why they are quite likely to end up playing more matches behind closed doors in the near future….
https://www.skysports.com/football/news/12010/12413651/hungary-fined-by-fifa-and-handed-stadium-ban-for-racist-behaviour-from-supporters-against-england

Paulics János
Paulics János
1 month ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

I have an idea: You have to get down to two (!) Knees before each game! Prayed with your hands!
For the tens of thousands of Christians who have recently been murdered in Africa !! Blacks !!
But for everyone, Buddhist, Muslim, Anglican …. Catholic, Atheist.
everyone has to do it that way!
I wonder how tolerant this gesture would be ???