Soccer tournament highjacked by Orbán government politicians in Toronto

In the last couple of months Budapest has increased its lobby activities in North America and now not even a friendly soccer tournament is spared. This year’s Árpád Kupa in Toronto became a political propaganda show.

Poster of the event

Soccer is Hungary’s national pastime and many emigrants continue to play the game. There are Hungarian teams in several cities throughout Canada and the US. The Árpád Kupa (Arpad Cup), a long-running annual Hungarian soccer tournament, started in Las Vegas, Nevada almost twenty years ago. Canadian, US and Hungarian soccer teams attend and have a great time. Last year’s games were held in the San Francisco Bay Area and for Hungarian speakers here is a short video introducing that friendly gathering. (Watch here)

This year the tournament was packed with Hungarian government politicians! Hungary’s Ambassador to Canada, Mr. Bálint Ódor sponsored the event; new Consul General to Toronto, Mr. Valér Palkovits was also present. Ambassador György Szöllősi came from Budapest. He is a sport journalist- and Orbán confidant-turned politician now serving as the Ambassador of Hungarian Football Tradition and Affairs concerning Ferenc Puskás. (Yes, this is his official title.)

Amb. Szöllősi (far left), Amb. Ódor (far right), Consul General Palkovits (second from right) at Árpád Kupa, Toronto.

Szöllősi was also leader of the Puskás Football Academy located in Felcsút, the village where Prime Minister Orbán was raised. So not surprisingly Foreign Minister Szijjártó appointed him to the rank of full Ambassador to promote Hungarian soccer!

Another Hungarian politician attending was Mr. Attila Szinay, the Deputy State Secretary for Legal and Administrative Affairs of Agricultural Development. Ms. Csilla Papp, a Budapest-paid activist (Kőrösi Csoma Ösztöndíjas) acted as the MC at the gala event. Representatives of local churches were also present: Mr. Zoltán Vass of First Hungarian Presbyterian Church, Mr. Dániel Püsök of First Hungarian Baptist Church and Mr. Zsolt Németi of Hungarian Pentecostal Church.

This at one time casual soccer tournament has now become a pro-Orbán Christian political rally. Amb. Szöllősi explained that the Hungarian Foreign Ministry has a Sport Section to utilize sport as an extended arm of the government’s lobby efforts. At the gala dinner there were more politicians and religious leaders than soccer players. A bizarre proposal was floated to hold the 25th anniversary tournament in Felcsút, Hungary to honor Mr. Orbán’s village and the stadium he built next to his country home.

A large soccer stadium was built next to PM Orbán’s summer home at the village of Felcsút.

In the past Árpád Kupa was a casual, friendly soccer event. No religion, no politicians. Next year’s tournament is planned in Cleveland, Ohio. Let’s make sure that no Hungarian government politician will be present.

György Lázár

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *