Mock soccer match held at parliament in protest of Hungary’s “National System of Cooperation”

June 8, 2017

Photo: Ádám Lestyánszki, Budapest Beacon

Evangelical Brotherhood leader Gábor Iványi’s “Protection Sport Association” (Oltalom Sportegyesület) held an unusual demonstration in front of parliament Wednesday afternoon intended to illustrate through the game of soccer, the prime minister’s favorite sport, the inequities of his so-called System of National Cooperation (NER) whereby Fidesz politicians and their supporters are given free rein without fear of legal consequences.

During the first half of the exhibition game the NER “stars” — players whose red jerseys featured photographs of prominent Fidesz politicians and high-flying businessmen close to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán — soundly defeated the team representing civil society by taking advantage of one-sided rules supposedly illustrative of NER under Orbán and Fidesz. In a speech delivered beforehand, Iványi said it was better to remain on the side of fair play, even if the pitch is heavily sloped to the advantage of one side.

The second half, devoted to “fair play football”, was far more sportsmanlike and enjoyable to watch for the two dozen “soccer fans” and various tourist groups in attendance.

Photo: Ádám Lestyánszki, Budapest Beacon

In a speech delivered before the start of the “match,” Iványi sarcastically observed that “there are a few more of us than at an average Hungarian football match,” referring to the government’s continuing program of erecting new football stadiums, or renovating existing ones, which hardly anyone attends at enormous expense to Hungarian and European taxpayers.

Iványi opened his remarks by thanking members of civil society who took it upon themselves to perform tasks ordinarily done by the government, claiming that others would be incapable of fulfilling these tasks with such professionalism and transparency. He expressed his concern over proposed legislative changes that would impose onerous burdens on civil organizations. Iványi stated his objection to “the harassment of George Soros’s name and honesty.”

“God bless the work of him and all of you, and his life and his generosity as well. Many, many thanks,” said the head of Hungary’s Evangelical Brotherhood. He pointed out that soccer matches are only enjoyable to watch if there are two teams and two goals, and that there is no shame in defeat providing the struggle is “honest and noble.”

Photo: Ádám Lestyánszki, Budapest Beacon

Iványi emphasized three aspects of the game with clear reference to Hungary’s present situation.

First, that the soccer field itself is not the property of either team, but rather that of the “holy motherland, that could not be set aside for the exclusive use of either team or those close to them, and that the field must be level because the teams swap sides at half-time.”

Second, the match should be presided over by mutually acceptable, honorable, incorruptible referees who apply the rules equally to both sides by blowing the whistle and penalizing whoever breaks the rules.

Third, the ball needs to be properly inflated and round, like the Earth. “We cannot sew extreme corners onto it.” By observing the rules, the outcome of the match would be determined by skill and luck, not external factors.

He continued by saying that it is not possible for us to control everything and play with everything, and we should not play with the rights of those weaker than us, and cannot jeopardize their physical well-being, nor can we dictate how long they may stay on the field, and we cannot value our own motions more than those of others.

“It is not possible for one to create a destructive business for its own benefit out of that which, for us, is a spiritual game which we play … since this game, this 90 minutes, is our lives themselves,” said Iványi, concluding that “it is better for us to remain on the side of fair play than on the side of NER-play, which plays according to rules that have been rewritten according to their selfish point of view at the expense of others.”

Photo: Ádám Lestyánszki, Budapest Beacon

Play commenced upon the conclusion of Iványi’s speech. Employees of the Ökotárs Foundation and The City Belongs to Everyone fielded two teams, one of whose players represented various leading Fidesz politicians and businessmen close to Orbán. Over the course of the match, the NER team essentially broke every rule in the book without the referee so much as blowing a whistle — hitting, pushing and tripping their opponents, fielding extra players, using multiple soccer balls, and using anti-migrant and anti-Soros signs to distract and even physically obstruct the opposing team.

The Protection Sports Association intends to hold similar matches throughout Hungary and even in neighboring countries.