The scenes involving Hungary fans on Tuesday night were shameful, but at the same time not surprising.
Clashes with police are nothing new. At Euro 2016, Hungary fans locked horns with French authorities before their game against Iceland; similar problems occurred in 2013 after a 3-0 loss to Romania in Bucharest.
More recently fan groups, particularly the black-shirted Carpathian Brigade, have become increasingly emboldened under Hungary’s current far-right ruling party.
In June, Hungary’s parliament passed a law banning gay people from featuring in school educational materials or TV shows for under-18s. Shortly after, at Euro 2020, Hungary fans were caught on social media holding an anti-LGBTQ banner.
The fact such a stance was taken by fans, just days after the Hungarian parliament passed a new law, has led some to speculate that the Carpathian Brigade may be government-backed. Either way, the government has shown little desire to come down on fans — and that has allow the issue to continue.
Earlier this year, Ireland players were booed in Budapest for taking the knee before a friendly, with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban labelling the stance “provocation”.
“If you are a guest in a country, then understand its culture and don’t provoke the locals,” he said. “The fans reacted as fans generally do if they are provoked, they don’t always choose the most elegant way to do it, but you have to understand the cause.”
There was a similarly soft response from Hungarian foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, after England players were subjected to racist abuse last month. He did not condone the trouble, but instead posted a video on Facebook of England fans booing the Italian national anthem ahead of the Euro 2020 Final.
It should be said, however, that the trouble is not exclusive to Hungary.
Last night’s match in Tirana between Albania and Poland was suspended for over 20 minutes due to crowd trouble. Albania fans threw objects at Poland players after they opened the scoring, forcing them to leave the pitch.
FIFA have condemned the incident, with an investigation likely to follow.
One suspects it won’t be the last time the governing body has to get involved.