Bid for rival football team sparks anti-Semitic debate in Hungary By Andrew Princz, Deutsche Presse Agentur.
Budapest – Hungarian football has been feeling the heat in recent days – and not only on the field, with Jewish organizations alleging anti-Semitism and incitement of public hatred by a local politician following the sale of a popular Budapest club.
The allegations followed remarks by a far-right parliamentary party member in connection with the sale of Hungarian champions Ferencvaros to what he described as a "greedy", Jewish-linked business group.
Hungarian football, which already arouses its share of heated passion among fans, fuels the sort of nationalism and team pride which have now prompted the accusations of anti-Semitism.
The Hungarian sporting community reacted with astonishment when it was revealed that local businessman Gabor Varszegi was to gain control over Ferencvaros through his retail company Fotex Rt., while his group already controls the club's local rivals, MTK Budapest.
"The ownership of football is a very emotional issue," said Peter Marsh, Co-director of the U.K.-based Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) and researcher into football-related violence. "This is especially true when you are talking about the loyalty of the fans.
"When the fans become hostile about these kinds of moves, they will use all that is available to them, be it anti-Semitism or racism."
The remarks that sparked the furore came at a press conference at which Laszlo Bognar, deputy chairman of the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), blasted the purchase of Ferencvaros by Fotex.
The politician was reported as saying that the purchase by Varszegi and his alleged Jewish associates, was an "act against the nation", and undertaken by "the wealthy Jewish bourgeoisie of Pest, which has nothing to do with Ferencvaros or Hungarians."
Following the comments, and numerous alleged anti-Semitic incidents a Ferencvaros match last weekend, eight Jewish groups filed a complaint with the Hungarian central investigative office and urged the public prosecutor to bring charges of incitement of hatred.
The impact and aftershock of the sale of a majority stake in the champions has affected not only rowdy fans, but even Hungary's football-loving Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who said that he was surprised and puzzled at the sale of Ferencvaros to the owner of MTK.
"The main problem is that if you are buying two clubs, the traditional loyalties and rivalries will be disturbed," said researcher Marsh. "There have been attempts by owners to buy up rival teams in the U.K, but all have failed."
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