FIFA will be receiving a formal protest claiming Hungarian fans were subjected to widespread “anti-Hungarian” sentiments in Romania, where the host nation won a World Cup qualifier 3-0 on Friday.
The Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România (translated: Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania) lodged the complaint after police had to use aggressive tactics to disperse Hungarian ultra activity in the streets of Bucharest. The rivalry between the two nations runs much deeper than soccer, with political arguments surrounding the region of Transylvania raging on for decades and generations.
(MORE: Romania, Hungary set to revive volatile rivalry on Friday)
However, despite Hungarians tearing through the Romanian streets, UDMR officials are claiming ethnic discrimination.
“Unfortunately, we’re not talking about isolated incidents,” the letter sent to FIFA states, based on a report from Jurnalul Național in Romania. “Lately, it’s become a normality that at soccer games, it is chanted that Hungarians should leave the country.”
In a column in Adevărul, Bogdan Diaconu responded:
Instead of condemning the Hungarian hooligan violence that turned Bucharest into a city under siege, the UDMR protested to FIFA that Romanian fans displayed anti-Hungarian attitudes. The UDMR functions, thus, as an echo for Budapest because the Hungarian soccer federation also wants to protest to FIFA for the “abuses” of Romanians against the hooligans that devastated Bucharest.
The UDMR encourages, through this action, the behavior of vandals among the Hungarian supporters and treats Romania like an enemy state. Even worse, the UDMR positions itself once again on the side of extremist Hungarians that clothed aberrant and dangerous behaviors in the occasion of the Romania-Hungary match.
The UDMR is not a sanctioned political party (it’s offically an alliance) in Romania, but as Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority in the country, at around 6 percent of the total population, it does set the political agenda to an extent. The UDMR holds nine seats in the Senate, 22 in the Chamber and three in European Parliament.
Tensions surrounding Romania’s annexation of Transylvania have a contrary voice inside Romanian borders, officially through the UDMR and unofficially through the million-plus Hungarians in the country. Hungarian influence is especially hard to ignore in Transylvania, where the majority of the Hungarian population in Romania is concentrated and where multiple towns and villages speak Hungarian as their primary language.
FIFA will likely recognize the underlying agenda of the UDMR’s protest and toss it out the window. If anything, Hungarian fans’ behavior before the game could draw sanctions from the governing body, as it continued inside the stadium, where fans clashed with Romanian riot police (pictured).
Further confrontation in the teams’ first matchup was avoided when Hungary was forced to play the game behind closed doors, in the wake of anti-Semitic behavior during an August friendly with Israel. However, the hooliganism and political fallout surrounding the game in Romania more than made up for it.