Hungarian Football challenges racism at first FARE Round Table25 May 2007

Hungary's most popular football club in, Ferencváros TC, hosted on Thursday (24 May) the first of a series of FARE Round Table discussions.

Organised by national FARE partner Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organisation the meeting gathered representatives of professional clubs, the football association, human rights groups, Roma organisations, supporter clubs and ministries to exchange good practice and devise future activities.

Only last week the Hungarian football association MLSZ penalized Ujpest by deducting 3 points for the racist taunts of it's fans against Debrecen striker Ibrahima Sidibe. Margitai Zoltán, responsible for licensing the football association said that Hungary was the first country to have docked points based on the adoption of article 58 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.

In his opening statement Ferncváros president Dámossy Zsolt made clear that due to problems with far-right supporters and racist behaviour his club started in 2004 with anti-racist actions. Over the last two years „Fradi“, as the club is called, also participated in the FARE Action Week. Racism can never accepted as something normal in Europe, therefore we have to do all what is possible to improve the situation. The struggle must continue.

Ferencváros Sports Director Ignác Tepszics pointed to the important role football plays in society and also the responsibility of Ferencvaròs with an estimated 1,5 Million supporters all over the country.

In the long run racism will destroy our sport. The press stigmatises our club as racist because of a minority of fans, we can't accept this so we have to lead the fight against racism. Our partner in this fight is the Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organisation with which we entered a long term partnership, said Ignác Tepszics.

Istvan Mezei, manager of the Roma national football team in Hungary, who previously won the Helsinki Cup, called on the full participation of the Roma national minority in Hungarian football: You can not think of the French national team without players of African descent, but the reality in Hungary is that Roma players are not represented. Roma do well on and off the pitch and they have a good team spirit. But the discrimination starts already from childhood, many talents stop with football before they can even be scouted!

He added, that the relationship to the Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) has improved but I am sad that two or three members of the MLSZ board tell us that there should be no Roma football team.

Managing Director of Budapest Honvéd FC, Pál Gács, stressed that currently five Africans would play for the club and that fans have learned to accept them. As a way to increase the number of families and young people in the stadium a 30-point programme to fight racism and other unacceptable behaviours has been implemented. Newly introduced supporter meetings seem also to yield positive results.

Henrietta Híz of Mobilitas, the youth agency of the Hungarian Ministry of Children,Youth and Sports reported on the exchange of social workers and fan experts with the KOS, the coordination unit of the German fan projects. The next step would be to participate actively in the campaign against racism in football.

In his closing statement the chairman of the Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organisation, Gibril Deen said: Fighting racism is not always easy, not in this country and not of us Africans in particular. Our organisation was the first to organise the FARE Action Week. With the support of Fradi and other clubs and the sport minister we hope to take the next necessary steps.

On part of FARE, Kurt Wachter of the the Austrian FairPlay. Different Colours. One Game campaign presented the approach and work of the FARE network. Also media took interest in the discussion, among them two national TV programmes who have covered the event.

Ferencváros, with 28 titles the country's most successful club, have failed this season to earn a playing licence, because of concerns over their financial situation. They are currently struggling to be promoted into the top division.