Role of sports is indispensable
31. 12. 2020.
The government has elevated sport to the ranks of a strategic sector because it recognised its indispensable role, meaning that modern life without ideals, hard work, heroes and sacrifice “turns to mud,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a year-end interview given to the sports newspaper Nemzeti Sport. The Prime Minister also said he would like to live to see Hungary hosting an Olympiad and the Hungarian football team playing in the World Cup final.

In the interview entitled “Back to the top” published on Thursday, the Prime Minister was first asked about the vaccine against the coronavirus, regarding which he said he had not yet been vaccinated. “I’ll wait my turn, we must first protect those who work in the intensive wards of hospitals,” he added.

He stressed that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, athletes must now undergo a period of transition, a period of survival until life returns to normal. “This is not so far now, it is perhaps closer than we think,” Mr Orbán stated.

He said, in the shadow of the present serious threat to health, not a single sports event can risk people’s health, and therefore safety must now be treated as the number one priority.

“This is now imposing restrictions on sports. However, there is a vaccine now, and the period of defencelessness, of being at the mercy of the virus will end the moment we have sufficient supplies, and this is now only a few weeks away,” he stated.

The Prime Minister highlighted that sports are especially important in the lives of the Hungarian people, and so it would be a mistake on the government’s part not to take this into consideration in the education of the nation, education policy and character formation.

He stressed that sport is the best means of a race among nations and the measuring of their performance. “Sport is about this: Now, my friend, let’s go out there and see who’s best,” Mr Orbán said, pointing out that as football is the most popular and most widely pursued sport, it has a prominent role.

“I have always regarded football in Hungary as a question of self-esteem,” the Prime Minister said, adding that national self-esteem and sports are closely connected. He said “For us Hungarians bravado is an eternal virtue which resides in the same corner of our heart as sport.”

Mr Orbán said “the Left are against everything, including sports.” “In my view, it is not normal to be reluctant to spend money on sports fields or sports for children,” he said, adding that Hungarian sports are far from rolling in money. “We are still more in the early days,” he observed.

The Prime Minister also said “there are continual attempts to attack everything that forms part of man’s natural view of life and self-identity,” and these also worm their way into sports events in the form of slogans, prints on strips and speeches to be delivered on a compulsory basis.

“I sometimes have the feeling that we are forced to live in a big camp that seeks to re-educate the world, and sports are also sucked into this; this positively irritates many of us,” he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that today physical education in schools is not just light exercise, but also a form of sports conducted in various disciplines under the auspices of sports associations.

He highlighted that the achievement he is even prouder of than everyday physical education is the government’s nursery school programme, and the balls, goals and all sorts of equipment necessary for skills improvement sent in the thousands. “This was suggested by Pál Dárdai, I myself only read about it in Nemzeti Sport,” he said.

According to Mr Orbán, each module is built on the other: nursery and elementary school sports tie in with competitive, professional sports, as well as with the required facilities “which are today in no way inferior to those of clubs in Belgium, Spain or Austria, for that matter”.

The Prime Minister described the system of corporation tax grants as a success story as, in addition to raising additional funds, it created a living relationship between companies and sports organisations.

In the case of academies accredited by the state, the Prime Minister said quality assurance by the government was essential; at present, this system extends to football, handball and basketball, but in the future volleyball and ice hockey could also be included.

He said sports associations are still struggling with daily survival problems, and even reaching the European average is a formidable task for them. He observed that it is necessary to develop club culture in the interest of achieving a meaningful improvement.

Mr Orbán stressed that, slowly but surely, the systems of major clubs and academies will overlap; there will be good academies where there are good clubs.

The Prime Minister said there are many sports leaders known from the realm of politics which is, for the time being, justified as sports are in still in a poor state; however, in the long run, this will not be required.

Regarding sports developments, he said plans include the construction of a major ice sports centre, they also have great plans for cyclists, while plans further include a pentathlon centre, a national fencing programme, Katalin Kovács’s academy for kayak and canoe, the refurbishment of Hungaroring and the construction of a Moto-GP course.

“I’d like to live to see Hungary hosting an Olympiad; had there not been a coup from within, we could have achieved this by 2032, at the latest,” Mr Orbán said.

He observed he would also like to see “us reaching heights in football that we reached twice in the past, meaning qualifying for the World Cup final”.

“Allegedly, we are going to live ever longer, so there is hope. Today, both fall beyond the realm of reason, but there is no sport without dreams,” he stated.

Regarding his personal involvement in sports, the Prime Minister said “this year has been tough for me, too, as has been for everyone else,” but he will soon return to the old routine, “football tennis at the end of January, then old boys”. “At the Academy, coaches play every week. I’d like to join them at Easter,” Mr Orbán said in conclusion.