Hungarian government defend children for booing England taking the knee
'Anyone who thinks children attending a match in Budapest can be blamed for a political statement is truly an idiot'
Hungary's government has strongly defended the children who booed England players for taking the knee ahead of Saturday's Nations League game in Budapest.
Over 30,000 school children were in the Puskas Arena as Hungary beat England 1-0. The game should have been played behind closed doors as punishment for racist and homophobic chanting by Hungarian supporters during Euro 2020, but a loophole in UEFA regulations meant 30,000 children could attend the game for free if accompanied by 3,000 adults.
Despite the young crowd, loud boos were heard as England's players took a knee before the game kicked off - something which Gareth Southgate later admitted had come as a surprise.
In a tweet sent after the game, Zoltan Kovacs, Hungary's Secretary of State for International Communication and Relations, dismissed those blaming children for making a political statement as 'idiots', copying in the names of five journalists at the end of his message.
'Anyone who thinks that children attending a football match in Budapest can be blamed for any kind of political statement is truly an idiot,' the tweet said. 'Congratulations to our national team, applause for the 35,000 kids.'
The comments echo the stance of Viktor Orban, Hungary's PM, who last year said pressurising athletes into the gesture was an act of provocation.
"If you're a guest in a country then understand its culture and do not provoke it," he told a press conference prior to Budapest hosting some of Euro 2020's fixtures.
"Do not provoke the host... We can only see this gesture system from our cultural vantage point as unintelligible, as provocation."
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) July 2, 2021
Southgate on young Hungary crowd booing the knee
Gareth Southgate later admitted he had been surprised by the reaction.
"I thought that's why we do it, to try to educate." he said. "I think young people can only be influenced by older people.
"The atmosphere when we arrived at the stadium, there were kids lining the streets they were really friendly, they were waving when we were walking out, there were pantomime boos when the team came out to warm up, that was different with the taking of that knee.
"That felt like inherited thinking to me. And I hear that still in our stadiums as well.
"That's why we do it, that's why we continue to take that stand and we will keep doing that. On a day like today, when we haven't won the game and haven't played well enough it's probably better for me to take criticism rather than talk about that."
With their racist chants, homophobic banners and black shirts, the Carpathian Brigade are a violent and increasingly recognisable force in European football.
But who are they? @TomaszMortimer explains https://t.co/2zQuGCcQKX
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) October 12, 2021
- The Carpathian Brigade: Who are Hungary’s black-shirted ultras?
- Gareth Southgate calls for protection for his players after abuse against Hungary
- Declan Rice breaks silence after iconic celebration against Hungary