BUDAPEST: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday (Jun 10) defended his country's football fans who booed the Ireland team as they took a knee before a Euro 2020 warm-up game in Budapest.
Before the game on Tuesday, sections of the crowd at the Szusza Ferenc Stadium in the Hungarian capital booed the Irish players for kneeling to highlight the issue of racial injustice.
"If you are a guest in a country, then understand its culture, and don't provoke the locals, don't provoke the host if you visit as a guest," Orban told a press conference in Budapest.
The fiercely anti-immigration leader said that he "agreed" with the Hungarian fans who booed, and that kneeling in protest "has no place on a sports field".
"We can't interpret this gesture in any other way, looking at it from our cultural point of view it's an incomprehensible thing, a provocation," he said.
"The fans reacted as fans generally do if they are provoked, they don't always choose the most elegant way to do it, but you have to understand the cause."
Premier League players in England have been going down on one knee before kick-off since George Floyd, who was black, was killed by a white police officer in the United States last year.
Orban, 58, said that "the interpretation of the gesture depends on each culture".
"If we look at who found it out, or how it emerged, we see that it started in slave-owning countries ... which Hungary never was," he said.
"It doesn't help to bring that heavy moral historical burden onto a football pitch, it doesn't liberate them from it ... this is not a solution."
After Tuesday's game - which ended in a 0-0 draw - Ireland coach Stephen Kenny called the booing "incomprehensible".
"It must be damaging for Hungary with the Euros in Hungary. It's disappointing and it doesn't reflect well on Hungary and the Hungarian support," he told reporters.
"We weren't expecting that ... It is for a good cause and we want to stop racism," said Ireland striker Adam Idah.
At the delayed Euro 2020 tournament which begins on Friday, Hungary play titleholders Portugal on Jun 15 and world champions France on Jun 19 at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, before facing Germany in Munich on Jun 23.
Packed stands are expected at the Puskas Arena, the only one of the 11 Euro 2020 stadiums not to limit fan numbers.