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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s address at the launch of the textbook “Football and Science”

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for honouring us with your interest. I think I need to make a few comments on the book, and then answer the question of why we’re publishing it; because those who have spoken before me have already said what it’s for and what we’re doing, but it might be worth talking a little longer to say why we’re publishing it.

When we talked about the book, the first and most important insight on it revealed to us by the president of our foundation is that it’s certainly suitable for physical education, due to its weight. With this he rekindled shared memories of happy childhoods. So, as a volume of considerable size, in this regard the book commands our respect.

The second comment I’d like to make is that here we saw a film about our academy. We’ve never concealed the fact that we’re working to create a national academy system. The simple fact is that after MTK – the “first swallow”, which built itself up very well, and for many years was a role model for us in Hungarian football – there should be another academy that doesn’t work under a big club, but which works for everyone, and in which what we experiment with, understand, write, learn and create will serve football in Hungary as a whole. Of course it’s not a problem if it’s associated with a club striving to hold its own at NB I level [Hungary’s highest football league]; yet the academy is never the academy of the current senior team, but of the whole of Hungarian football, which we want to serve through our work. And the film reminded me that of course there’s a conception of the relationship between football and art – about which I’ll say a few words later. So I don’t think we need to think about football in the same way everywhere, but we’d like all the academies in the country be in as good shape as this one: we’d like them to be as well-ordered and as well-equipped, and to have unrestricted access to pitches, educational capacities and scientific facilities. And we’ve introduced the title of “state-accredited academy” so that every academy in Hungary can be a prestigious employer offering a guaranteed salary.

The third comment I’d like to make is that we’re grateful to Lajos Mocsai – partly because he’s here with us, and partly because it’s been made possible for the University of Physical Education to be our contractual partner, our cooperating partner. After all, it’s perhaps the oldest physical education university in Europe, and it greatly enhances our reputation to work with it – and also with you, Lajos. We’ve been in lockdown as a result of the pandemic, which has given me the chance to watch the match against Iceland several times. I used to think that what handball coaches said to the players in the interval was just hocus pocus, but watching that match one can see that this isn’t the case – one can see that it’s carefully thought out. So it’s an honour for us to work with the person responsible for one of the legendary coaching moments in Hungarian sporting history. Although the match was at the London Olympics God knows how many years ago, we will always congratulate you, again and again.

The fourth point I’d like to make is to thank Sándor Csányi, because when – many, many years ago – we came up with the idea of redesigning the whole of Hungarian football, the problem it struggled with was a lack of authority. And as countless Hungarian footballers weren’t flooding into the major Western European championships, it was also very clear that we’d sunk so low that if we wanted to restore the prestige of Hungarian football and the Hungarian Football Federation, it would hardly be possible to do so from the bottom up : from the level of football or footballers. So we had to try from above and find someone who was willing to take the risk of putting his own personal authority on the line – in a sense lending it to Hungarian football by taking over leadership of the Hungarian Football Federation. And if he hadn’t committed himself to this, then Hungarian football probably wouldn’t stand where it does now, and our Hungarian football academy wouldn’t stand where it does either. So I’m always grateful to Sándor. We’ve often lamented together, especially after losing matches, asking ourselves why on earth we need this: we have fine families, we have regular jobs; but then we have this millstone round our necks, and we lament. So I asked Misi [Mihály Takács] to include in the book a picture that provides the answer to why, even in times of sorrow, it makes sense to do this. If you want to know why all this is worth doing, you’ll find the answer in the picture on page 412. I recommend it to everyone.

My fifth remark is that we should take a moment to remember György Mezey, without whom we wouldn’t be sitting here. This is because György Mezey’s was the first professional concept for the academy – the first of what has turned out to be many, because over the course of ten or thirteen years a growing number of schools, trends and approaches have presented themselves to us. But in the beginning we didn’t just get together and do something: there was a professional system and logic in what we did. And for that thanks are due to György Mezey, whom we also greet from here. He was the one who rallied our souls – and it’s to our credit that we grasped the opportunity offered to us – to the concept that one cannot create an academy without one’s own educational system. Of course there are the many scientific disciplines that this book summarises so well; but after all the most important thing is the number of times a day each youngster has contact with the ball. And things depend on how many hours are spent on the field, and how many are spent in school. If we can’t find a balance between the two, then unfortunately we won’t be able to provide the number of hours on the field and the contact with the ball which are needed for football. We learned this from György Mezey, and I’m glad we took his advice.

As we’re here at the academy, I must also say a word about “Uncle Feri” Kovács – God rest his soul. Two or three years after the founding of our academy we conducted an evaluation of our progress, and then Uncle Feri gave us the wise advice that we can still thank him for: “you also need a cap on your head”. I tried to figure out what he wanted to say and tried to understand the meaning of his words, because in general old footballers talk in this mysterious way. And, believe me, he said that if there’s no progression out of the system, youngsters will lose motivation in the last year or two, and then despite all the money, energy, knowledge and time we invest in 13- to 17-year-olds, if they don’t feel and see where they can progress to if they perform well, then their performance will fall back at the age of 18 or 19. This is why we first tried to build a partnership with Videoton – which went well for a while, but then became impossible. It brought us a lot of experience and the success of cooperation, and also showed us the limitations of working with such a big club. And when we were forced to end this cooperation, and wear our own cap, as Uncle Feri put it, we were forced to manage the team in the NB II league, and then – through great success and luck – in the NB I. In this way the youngsters being raised here will always have somewhere to move up to, and the academy has a cap on its head.

The next remark I’d like to make relates to what Mihály said here about the history of the formation of clubs. This is a well-worn topic of course, but it’s very important. Our academy has also learned a lot from the history of big clubs, because football can only be pursued really well in big clubs – and I say this as the founder of an academy belonging to a little club. So football can only really be done seriously in a big club. Of course it’s important that Budafok have gone up – congratulations to Jaksi – and it’s important that as an academy we’re here in the NB I. But it takes a major club to produce major football. It’s possible to do interesting things in smaller academies and smaller clubs, but somehow the truth is that it doesn’t really work without large crowds. And only the big clubs have big fanbases. And therefore very properly the book devotes time and energy to discussing the question of the nature of these big clubs. Anyway, if you don’t take this into account, then what you do will be a sham: there won’t be real fans behind it, a social base, and the whole thing will just hang on the breeze. The best word I can find for it is “sham”. Another very important task for our academy is to know its exact place: we don’t have a stadium of twenty thousand, but, I don’t know, three thousand eight hundred – let’s say four thousand. It’s very important for the academy to know its place: to know that our students always play in the first eleven, and that we’re educating them; and to know the function, the mission and the vocation of a team like ours – even if, along the way by the grace of God we may once or twice finish the season high in the table, and get close to winning the cup. We’ve already played in a cup final. If we’d won, we would have been able to enter the international arena as well. But that doesn’t mean that we would have become a big club, because a big club has a distinct historical status. This book very accurately describes that situation.

One more comment before I begin what I have to say is that I’ve looked closely at all our players graduating this year, and there are some things that are really moving. We have many kinds of youngsters with many talents, but one of our footballers – and my particular hero – is Lorenzó Nagy. He’s always – for years – been my favourite player. He’s such a perpetual-motion machine: not a particularly large, towering figure suited to being a centre-forward, but a tremendously mobile midfielder. Now that he’s completed his studies here in Hungary, he’s passed his exams for study in America. He’s eligible for enrolment at any one of 57 universities, he’s been accepted by that many, he can choose where he wants to study, so he’ll be playing and studying in the United States. We also have such miniature heroic stories, not directly related to football, that I think are very important in the life of an academy, and that also answer the question of whether it’s worth being so intensely and deeply involved in academies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There will also be [the centenary of the Treaty of] Trianon, and in this context we ought to say something about football. We don’t usually say it out loud, but football isn’t just a game: it’s life itself. When else could we say this, if not at a book presentation? And we think that it’s a fair game, because you have to fight with your visor up, within the predefined boundaries of the pitch, and according to fixed rules applying to both sides. Here everyone is responsible for their own destiny, and it isn’t decided by drawing all sorts of lines on a map laid out on some negotiating table. So Hungarian football has always been a consolation for us. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Hungarian football experienced its first great golden age precisely after Trianon, when the sport was a consolation for us, and when we showed the world what we could do. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence either that we were so good in the fifties. I’m sure that sports academics can give a good reason for this, but football provides a good opportunity to defeat the team of the occupying country on the pitch, if no other way of defeating them is available. It might not be so simple, but it’s possible. So for a nation like us football always provides the opportunity for consolation and recompense; and so it should be treated not just as a sport, but also as part of culture and history. This thought is so strong and moving that we can even afford to look at it from a humorous angle. My friend László Szokolai – “Szoki” – likes to tell me when we meet that in the latest chapter in Hungarian history it’s written that I was the first person to send the Russians home, but that this isn’t true: he was the one who headed the winning goal… And it’s true: we beat them. So I just want to say that football offers opportunities for many kinds of mental association, and deep down in all such jokes and banter there is truth; and the truth is that for Hungarians football is also consolation and recompense.

After this, allow me to talk about something else. It’s very difficult to manage an academy professionally – or spiritually rather than professionally; and I ought to say “keep it together” rather than “manage it”, as that’s not my business as a founder. This is because modern football simultaneously requires two different approaches, which automatically come into conflict with each other. I learned this from Sousa, when he was a coach at Videoton and worked here for us. And as the Portuguese are quite successful with youth squads, I asked him about the right way to assemble teams of professionals to deal with teams at various age levels. People who are familiar with Hungarian football know that we tend to joke with each other, and earlier we were joking with “Uncle Pilu” about the fact that the book was written by people from Nyírség [in north-eastern Hungary], and so it should rather have been about pálinka distilling. So I just want to say that there’s always humour as well as contrast: there are old footballers and there’s modern science. And the truth is that to raise good footballers you need both. It’s always true – and it’s also always built into the life of the academy – that there are scholars who write what to do, and there are those like Uncle Pilu who simply get the ball and kick it into the goal. So the question is how to take the culture brought by old footballers – experience, knowledge, quality, and so on – and dovetail and integrate it in order to weld it together with modern hocus pocus – or whatever, that’s just what we call it. But here we’ve just heard words from Mihály [Takács] that we don’t even precisely understand: what must be measured, put together and so on. So the question is how to combine these two things: experience and knowledge that can only be acquired through playing, and modern science. Sousa told me that, since in general these two aspects are found in two distinct types of people, the key to everything is finding out how to bring old footballers together to work in a team with young scientists or theoretical people and training theorists. If we can solve this problem, we’ll have a good academy. And he said that for this reason there are two people you should always try to have on a team, a youth team: a former player; and someone else, a university graduate if possible, or a young hungry wolf who’s learning the profession and is open to new things. And you have to somehow try to put these two together and incorporate them into the work of a team. If this is successful, you’ll have a good youth system. I don’t know if this is the secret to Portuguese football’s success, but from our many years of experience I’m sure that if these two approaches aren’t well combined, then the academy’s professional work will be unbalanced or inadequate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What else do I want to say? Perhaps that while of course every academy is similar, because it educates football players, every academy is also different. This is because football is very similar to my current profession of politics: it doesn’t really have a definition, every individual has their own opinion or image of it according to their own taste, they have their own individual philosophy, and they build this according to their own way of thinking. And this is why every academy is necessarily different. And when I hear “Uncle Pista” – who’s also one of our circle and has been helping us for a long time – talk about how one must position three midfielders, and then I open this book and read the modern conception of how three midfielders need to be positioned, I see a completely different philosophy. And if we ask him why his way is right, he’ll explain the philosophy which states why the essence of the game dictates that it has to be that way. And those who represent the opposing conception also explain why, philosophically, this must – of course – be completely different. I just want to say that every academy is different, and in addition to similarities it also has differences. This is a great thing. In this regard they mustn’t be standardised. It’s important to evaluate everywhere, it’s important to work from the same database everywhere, and to have the same scientific tools available everywhere. But one mustn’t standardise the way of thinking about the game, how to play the ball and where to move, because that will never produce football. You can’t play football in drill formation. You can stand to attention like that, and maybe march, but you certainly can’t play football. And our academy also has a philosophy. It’s no coincidence we’re sitting in a room like this. If you go to Diósgyőr, you won’t find yourself sitting in a room like this. They have a very good academy. Or if you go to Honvéd, you won’t find yourself sitting in a room like this – it will be another kind of room. And if you go out to see the pitches, they’ll look different. And if you talk to the staff, the coaches who work there, they’ll talk about football differently than we do here. This is because the special characteristic of this academy is that we categorise football as an art. Some categorise it as a business, some categorise it as a physical discipline, and therefore the consequences are different. We categorise it as an art. Our conception, the way we understand Hungarian football, can definitely be interpreted differently; but we understand Hungarian football as a story of essentially brilliant insights and inspiration. And our great players were all inspired players, and they foresaw something that wouldn’t have occurred to you, and which you’d never have thought of by just watching the game on its own. And this itself is art. So everything that you see here, the way we train players, the physical environment and objects, all means, of course, that players must do Pista Csáki’s exercises, and this kinesio thing that Mihály talks about must be recorded and measured. But in the end we need football players who go out on the field and do something that would never have occurred to anyone who wasn’t raised here. This is the point we want to arrive at.

When I arrived here today I saw a Serb called Kripić, because there are not only Hungarians at the academy, but we also educate talented Hungarians and non-Hungarians from outside our borders. Here outside a Serb called Kripić was practising his shooting technique – not unsuccessfully. What I’m saying is that books are good, but it’s out there where things are decided. We have books, we have science, and we have theories. What we need are footballers, distinguished professors, educators, teachers and coaches. We need footballers! We’re impatiently waiting for this book to increasingly translate into reality, and to see youngsters who have all the huge amount of science in their feet that we’ve collected here in writing. And everything that the scientists have brought together here can be written by those youngsters – not in a book, but in a movement. That’s what we’re waiting for: we’re waiting for these footballers. I wish success to the academies – not only to ours, but also to others – in educating such footballers. This book will help every professional in this.

Thank you very much for your attention.