Monday, August 8

Hungary fans bring another dark and painful night to Wembley | 2022 World Cup Qualifiers

WWe came for football. What we got, with the anthems still fresh, was 10 minutes of violent culture shock in the Wembley seats. This was a picture of cruelty portrayed through the fists of Hungary’s ultra-travelers and what, at times, looked like a lone metropolitan police officer waving his (vastly outnumbered) baton of liberal justice.

Ultra-nationalist soccer thugs against the Met. And he is alive! It was a gloomy, toxic and sometimes surreal night at Wembley Stadium. At 7:45 pm, the England players started this qualifier for the Qatar World Cup 2022 with the usual hopeful little cheers. At 7:48 pm, the first fists were thrown in the final in Hungary. At 7.50 p.m. M., The police had reached the stairway above the main mass of alienated partisans and began an attempt to force them back.

Fast forward another five minutes of full contact and the Met, hit, kicked and swarmed by higher numbers, had retreated to the esplanade. And so it happened that with the game itself just beginning, the visiting support had created a kind of Hungarian embassy in the Wembley seats. The flag will fly. This parcel of land is ours.

At the break, the police tweeted a statement. Shortly after the start of the game, officials had entered the far end of Hungary to arrest a spectator for “a racially aggravated public order offense.” Before kick-off, the England players had knelt down. It provoked a strong reaction in the Hungarian section. A flag was raised with a drawing of a stick man taking the knee, with a line painted across it. Hungarian football fans are enthusiastic repeat offenders when it comes to racist abuse.

“When the officers made the arrest, a minor disorder broke out involving other bystanders. Order was quickly restored and there have been no further incidents at this stage, ”the statement continued. This is only partially true. Order was not restored. Or at least, not from the order of the Met, but a small sample of the far-right dictatorial culture that stakes its flag in the London Borough of Brent.

To their credit, the police tried to enforce the law here. This was an attempt, insufficient and overwhelmed, but also undeniably courageous, to enforce the principle that racism is a crime in this country. At the same time, it seemed strange, even before kick-off, that there was so little police presence, so little feeling for the occasion and for the reputation of the visitors. What did they think was going to happen here, wading to that end of 2000 men in a little light-jacketed platoon?

Public problems dominated the early stages of the match.
Public problems dominated the early stages of the match. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian

Some may wonder why, given that Hungary was ordered to play its last home game behind closed doors for abusing England’s black players, it was considered acceptable for thousands of Hungarians to gather to watch football in London. Soccer makes noise about regulation, about saying no to racism.

His governing bodies express their shock each time, as they approach the nearest sordid dictator. It is a laughable and insulting claim.

The violence had started when Hungarian supporters clashed with a group of administrators. Butlers are not security guards. These people are there to handle the crowd and help with the flow. Twenty to thirty policemen appeared at the top of the stairs and were soon beating the crowd with batons. Hungarian fanatics swarmed, swarming around these insurgents in their luminous jackets. After the deserved criticism, the Met has taken over the recent horrible events, the internal culture of the force, the failures of the administration, this will attract little sympathy from some. Couldn’t they just stop a bus?

It is worth considering who was on the other side of that line. Viktor Orban has weaponized soccer as a statement of personal power and also as a rallying point for a young and aggressive male cultural militia. There was something astonishing during the summer euros to see various English television pundits raving, presumably out of ignorance, to the excitement, the warm sentiments inspired by seeing men in black shirts pounding the air and projecting their own kind of aggressive nationalism. It’s great to see the crowd come back, huh?

Here, that early incident seemed to overshadow the game. Hungary scored midway through the first half, signaling a huge green smoke bomb at the end of the distance. When England tied, there was a brief alarm at attempts from all sides to climb over the safety tarp, but luckily they failed. At the final whistle, reports suggested that the police had arrested 40 Hungarian fans and were waiting for reinforcements to arrive to remove them from the stadium.

For Wembley, this was another painful night. The Euro 2020 final brought its own kind of domestic meltdown. Perhaps you could try to explain that as a byproduct of desperation for closure, fueled by corner cut security and shoddy planning. Cut it. Tighten the margins. Expect the best. The reality of England in 2021 sped through that illusion of order, splintering it like a western cardboard set. This was something else. Welcome to the world, Wembley Stadium. Make no mistake, it’s a bit dark out there.

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