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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Hungarians are Modest, Happy Guinea Pigs in Great Football Experiment

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

​The Great Day of Football Experiment has arrived! This evening, some 20,000 fans, including up to 3,000 from both Germany and Spain will gather in the Puskás Arena to watch Bayern Munich and Sevilla face off in the UEFA Super Cup.

It is a game UEFA has described as a “test” so as to “study precisely the impact of spectators on the UEFA Return to Play Protocol”. Well - unless they'd played the game in the USA or India - they could hardly have chosen better conditions for their test, Spain in particular is going through a surge in coronavirus infections, suffering – if I read the charts correctly – a spike of over 31,400 infections yesterday and averaging 10,800 cases per 24 hours over the past seven days. Meanwhile the host country reported 750 new cases this morning, which brings the total number of fresh infections to 8,891 in the past 11 days – an average of 808 per day. The total number of active infections in Hungary is now 15,673. Just to remind you, the total number of cases in Hungary on May 1, when the first wave was on the wane, came to just 2,863. There had been 88 new infections in the previous 24 hours (from my calculations – the way the government figures makes it a wee bit tricky to work out.) And the country was still under full lockdown. see So yes, C-19 is – by comparison to April – raging around and among us. But it seems the Hungarian people are willingly bearing what is, potentially, a great price for the sake of of football development.

Except, it's questionable if they know. Because the government – which is normally quite willing to boast about Magyar achievement and invention - is being incredibly modest about this possible innovatioinal risk to the nation. Indeed, as far as I can see, the government itself has seen fit to speak about the undertaking, the pro-regime press is totally mum (bar the sports media), and Chief Medical Officer Cecilla Muller has not answered any questions on the risks involved at her daily press conferences. (This is not to say none have been submitted. All questions have to be sent in advance you understand. I'll let you ponder what happens to any deemed unsuitable by her controllers.) Since we are, after all, talking about serious risk to lives here, you will be pleased to hear that great efforts are being made to reduce the risk of infection at and before the match, which is jolly decent of the authorities. The Arena will only be at 30% capacity (if, that is, they can attract 20,000 supporters – that has to be questionable given the price of tickets if they expect 16,000 local fans) and there will be numerous tests and checks before the game. But as one diplomat from one of the countries sending teams to Budapest told Perspectives-Budapest: “I think this is madness. I know these fans. They are passionate. If their team scores, they'll be taking off their masks and hugging each other.” The diplomat added: “I've expressed my opinion to the government people here, and quite a few agree with me.” Except they don't say anything n public. Really? In an EU member state, where free speech is guaranteed?

One wonders why? It is highly likely that any increase in infections (and deaths) in Hungary caused by holding this game will be subsumed in the 800 plus we are getting every day now. And if no increase whatsoever is recorded, Hungary can shout it has made a great leap forward for the world regarding football spectator management. And the country's Football Association will no doubt score lots of brownie points with UEFA, leading to more international matches being played in Budapest.

That will, surely, bring great pleasure to at least one leading member of government (and a few hard-pressed hotel managers to boot, if that's a fitting expression). But as Tibor Vidos, a Hungarian citizen who has tried to organise a petition against holding this game open to the public puts it:

“In this situation, it is irresponsible to allow 20,000 fans to gather in a stadium. The presence of spectators will result in the further spread of the pandemic both in Hungary and abroad. We fear for our parents’ and grandparents’ and our own health!” (Tibor, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has, of course, pledged that the government has the safety of senior citizens as one of his top priorities. And as he's a Christian, he obviously wouldn't deceive you, so you really shouldn't worry on the last score.) So far, a mere 377 have signed this petition (including myself). Hungarians, it seems, are clearly brave people, willing to undertake great risk without a whimper. One wonders if the government's reaction to this match would be the same if George Soros had subsidised the price of tickets and plane fares for hard pressed supporters wishing to attend the game.

I wish you a pleasant, safe evening if you are attending the game. I certainly won't be.

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