German Bundesliga team Hertha BSC parted ways with its Hungarian goalkeeping coach after he voiced his immigration-critical stance and criticized star goalie Péter Gulácsi for his open support for rainbow families. This comes on the heels of similar events in the pro-government media, the only difference being that of political opinions.
To fully understand the domestic context and background of these latest events, we should turn the clock back a couple of months. It was first RB Leipzig and the national team’s star goalkeeper, Péter Gulácsi, to support rainbow families. Back at the end of February, he posted a photo with the movement’s logo (established after the controversial Constitution amendments in November) and explained, “everyone has the right to equality. Just as every child has the right to grow up in a happy family, that family should be made up of any number of people, of any gender, of any color, of any religion.”
Besides the usual waves on all sides of the political spectrum, Péter Gulácsi had to face some rather shocking backlash too. Amid the usual, often intimidating online comments, certain pro-government outlets also expressed some tasteless remarks. Pesti TV’s pundits, for example, suggested that Gulácsi may have exchanged his genitals with those of his wife. In addition, other pro-government outlets, such as Hungary’s only sports daily Nemzeti Sport, failed to report the case at all (while this wasn’t the case with Petry’s departure).
Former FTC, Kaiserslautern, and national team defender, now well-known pundit and agent, János Hrutka, sided with Gulácsi and labeled his public support as an independent and brave deed. “With his post, Péter Gulácsi thumbs his nose at the expectations of the [domestic] supporters’ environment, because he was able to be autonomous and independent, while knowing that there would be consequences.”
A little later, however, Hrutka was dismissed from Spíler TV, a channel belonging to the pro-government-businessman-controlled TV2 group. After Hrutka made it public, Spíler justified the decision with wanting to renew its staff of experts (in the middle of the season). Not long after, the state television parted ways with sports commentator, Viktor Lukács, even though he was a member of the team assigned to the forthcoming football European Championship. Reportedly, liking Gulácsi’s rainbow family post led to Viktor Lukács’s dismissal. While none of those affected explicitly admitted that these were the reasons, none of them denied it either, and other well-informed figures also pointed in this direction.
FactActually, this wasn’t the first time the aforementioned Spíler parted ways with an expert who voiced a critical opinion of the government or pro-Fidesz figures. János Kele had to leave the channel after he had published a post critical of billionaire Lőrinc Mészáros’ 2Rule clothing brand and the government’s generous and debated sports financing system based on the TAO tax monies, which in his view, is full of corruption.
Zsolt Petry‘s statements that put him in the headlines caused contention under these circumstances. The former national team goalie, who with a minor break, has spent the last six years coaching Hertha’s senior team’s goalkeepers and has been assisting the club’s Hungarian coach, Pál Dárdai, was asked by pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet about Gulácsi’s rainbow family stance and other issues, such as migration. Although Petry said Gulácsi and his opinion is not morally attackable, he suggested that the goalie should focus instead on football and abstain from making political statements. He claimed “the majority of Hungarian society does not agree with Péter Gulácsi’s liberal opinion on rainbow families (…) However, I don’t know what could’ve motivated Péter to stand with homosexual, transvestite, and other gender identities. I certainly wouldn’t have stirred up emotions in his place.”
Petry also added that “I can’t even understand how Europe is capable of sinking to the moral depths it is at now. Immigration policy to me is the manifestation of moral decline (…) Europe is a Christian continent and I am reluctant to watch the moral degradation sweeping across our continent. The liberals magnify the counter-opinions: if you don’t consider migration good because a horrifying number of criminals has swept Europe, you’re branded a racist.”
First Hertha said they wanted to have ‘a conversation’ with the goalkeeping coach. Following this, Petry partly distanced himself from the interview, asking to edit his statement in the government-linked daily or as Magyar Nemzet put it “to express his position in a more nuanced way.” Satisfying Petry’s will, in a short article, the news outlet wrote that Petry emphasized that he fully respects Gulácsi’s opinion and declared not to have had made any discriminatory statements against rainbow families.
Anyhow, on Tuesday, Hertha BSC still announced to send Petry packing. The Berlin side justified the move by arguing that it had signed the Diversity Charter and was actively engaged with diversity and tolerance. However, they couldn’t found any trace of these principles in Petry’s statement, which he made publicly without consulting with them beforehand.
FactThe German capital’s most popular club, Hertha BSC, is known for its engagement in issues of tolerance, outstanding even to German standards. Not only do they employ many foreign footballers, often with immigrant backgrounds, it is the first club to have an LGBTQ fan group too. They expressed support with the BLM movement too, and are loud backers of the aforementioned Charter, something that even some of the German clubs refused to sign.
János Hrutka also reacted to the news. He drew attention to the several unclear details of the issue, such as the exact details of Petry’s contract with the club, and the script of his controversial interview with Magyar Nemzet. Regardless of all this, without knowing the facts, it is sad that anyone can lose their job over their opinion, for approaching a given situation from another aspect. Whether we agree with him or not.”
In the featured photo: Péter Gulácsi. Photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI