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Victory Brings Pile of Trouble for Hungarian Footballers

Team from western Ukraine called on carpet after winning tournament for the sport’s minnows.

12 June 2018

Members of an ethnic Hungarian football team in Ukraine may face investigation for separatism after the team’s victory in the “alternative World Cup.”

 

Ukrainian Sports Minister Ihor Zhdanov yesterday called on the SBU security service “to respond appropriately to such a frank act of sporting separatism,” and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the players should be questioned, including about their source of funding, Reuters reports.

 

In the final of the World Football Cup, a tournament for teams from regions, ethnic groups or states not represented in the world football body FIFA, the team, dubbed “Karpatalya,” beat Northern Cyprus 3-0 in London on 9 June.

 

FIFA’s flagship event, the World Cup, gets under way Thursday in Russia.

 

In a statement, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA), the tournament organizer, said it is “a politically-neutral, volunteer-run charity registered in Sweden” and said that to the best of its knowledge, no players or others associated with the Karpatalya team expressed any separatist ambitions.

 

 

The incident is playing out against a backdrop of heightened tension over a controversial Ukrainian law limiting the amount of teaching in minority languages. Hungary has been the most vociferous opponent of the law, but Romania, Moldova, and Russia also criticized it.

 

Members of the Hungarian community and Education Ministry officials began negotiations on the implementation of the law last week, UNIAN reports.

 

Education and Science Minister Lilia Hrynevych said Hungarian language teaching materials should be placed in a Ukrainian context.

 

“If there is an ABC where children learn letters while reading exclusively about the Hungarian anthem, flag and city – this is something we find inappropriate,” she said.

 

In March, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Budapest would block Ukrainian access to meetings with the European Union and NATO if Kyiv did not amend the education law and postpone its implementation until 2023, according to UNIAN.

 

 

  • All but two of the players of the Karpatalya squad play league football in Hungary, most for lower division clubs, and one represents Romania’s first-division side Sepsi.

 

  • Teams from “greater Hungary” did well at the tournament: a team representing Szekely Land in Romania finished fourth.

 

  • After an arson attack on the Hungarian cultural center in Uzhhorod in February, Klimkin spoke of a “Russian trace” and rejected talk of “mystical anti-Hungarian sentiments.” Two men arrested in Poland on suspicion of involvement were alleged to belong to a Polish far-right group.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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