“We kneel only before God!”: The Carpathian Brigade wears black and is the most extreme ultras of Hungary
The racist chants echoing at the Pushkas Arena during the match between Hungary and England in September sounded painfully familiar. The same happened in the 1: 1 draw against France at Euro 2020 in June. Then the Hungarians directed their racist attacks and monkey sounds at the duo in the French attack Killian Mbape and Karim Benzema.
In the previous match against Portugal, the Hungarian ultras chanted “Cristiano Ronaldo – gay”, while a group with black T-shirts held a banner reading “Anti LMBTQ” (“Against LGBTI” in Hungarian).
During the final match of the group stage – against Germany, a banner with a picture of a man and a woman kissing was unfurled in the stands, and the caption read: “Our tale of life”. The banner was also a reference to the Hungarian government’s ban on minors in the country from exposing themselves to “LGBTI propaganda”, which includes schools.
The behavior of the fans brought a penalty of two games without an audience to Hungary, imposed by UEFA. FIFA has also stepped in and sanctioned the country specifically for the racist insults directed against Rahim Stirling and Jude Bellingham in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
The penalty expired in the 0: 1 home loss to Albania, which is why the Hungarians were more than inspired to support their own in the next match – the visit of England. The match at Wembley ended in a draw 1: 1, but there were problems with the fans in the stands again. There were even clashes with the police, and a Hungarian man was detained, according to some, for insulting on a racist basis against one of the stewards.
The Hungarians again booed England on their knees before the first referee signal.
Of course, we can’t put all Hungarian fans under a common denominator. The main problem comes from the ultras group called the Carpathian Brigade – a gang of healthy boys, all dressed in black T-shirts, and most often located behind one of the doors of “Pushkash Arena”.
The Carpathian Brigade is a collection of the most extreme and vocal football fans in Hungary, gathered from various clubs from Budapest and the whole country. It was formed in 2009.
“The group exists with the help of the government. It was an attempt by the authorities to unite the hooligans under one hat and deradicalize them, but at the same time they must pass on the propaganda to the ruling party,” said Chaba Toth, a journalist with the independent Hungarian website Azonnali.
They were ordered not to display neo-Nazi symbols and gestures. Instead, their efforts are aimed at supporting the government’s propaganda through homophobia, transphobia, and anti-Black Lives Matter movements. “
Like the vast majority of ultras in Europe, those in Hungary are also prone to neo-Nazism. Since the middle of the last century, Hungarian hooligans have been associated with fascism and the far right, which is rooted in the culture of the most famous local club – Ferencváros. But this is not the only example.
Tattoos and banners with messages about White Power (literal translation) are still a common sight in home championship matches. Nazi gestures, too. A banner with “Aryangreen” can often be seen at Ferencvaros matches, which, in combination with the team’s green team, is a reference to the Nazi dream of a pure Aryan race. Their Ultras group is known as the Green Monsters and is a major contributor to everything that happens in the Carpathian Brigade.
“We are a nationalist fan community in Hungary and we are proud of that,” a representative of the neo-Nazi group Legio Hungaria told Bellingcat.com in September.
But the idea of the Carpathian Brigade was different. It had to unite everyone: left, liberals and right.
“This is not a homogeneous group of people,” said Gergej Marosi, a professor of sports journalism at the University of Budapest. “
At the beginning, the Carpathian Brigade was not very warmly received at the matches of the national team because of its ties with the authorities, but after a match with the great opponent Romania, things changed.
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In 2013, the Hungarians organized mass clashes with Romanian police in Bucharest after a 0-3 loss. The following year, during a European qualifier, also in Bucharest, Hungarian fans jumped over the stadium’s fences and headed for the unsuspecting Romanians in the stands.
The match ended in a draw, thanks to a late equalizer, which helped Hungary qualify for the European Championship – the first major forum for the country since 1986. Strong ties between members of the Carpathian Brigade, as well as the establishment of the group as a leader during matches of the national team, it happens just then.
“The Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 rankings have made the national team’s matches very popular,” Maroshi said.
Since 2008, more and more people go to the stadium and support the national team. I believe that part of this is due to the Carpathian Brigade, as well as, of course, to the results that have improved significantly. “
Although they are quite healthy boys, the Carpathian Brigade completely obeys what is lowered from above. In June, their Facebook page warned members of the group that they would have to cover their tattoos as they could violate local laws. In fact, it is part of the government’s policy to replace Nazi propaganda with that against LGBTI people and blacks.
That is why the rulers are not worried about the values professed by the Carpathian Brigade. Prime Minister Victor Orban has defended the decision of the ultras to boo Eire’s team, which also knelt before the match in June.
“Hungarians kneel only before God, for their country and when they offer to their beloved,” Orban commented. Not surprisingly, a “Kneel before God” banner was spotted on the streets of Budapest before last month’s match with England.
The “brigadiers” also received support from Foreign Minister Peter Siarto. In light of the racist scandal following the match with England last month, he released a video of the Euro 2020 final, when fans of the “three lions” whistled the Italian national anthem.
“The government does not criticize them because it fears that the Carpathian Brigade could disintegrate and be replaced by a much more difficult-to-control and more extreme group,” Toth explained.
However, this does not mean that one day the Carpathian Brigade itself will not become uncontrollable. Within the organization, friendships and partnerships are formed between different clubs, which previously seemed impossible in Hungary.
Even without neo-Nazi symbols, the power the movement has already gained could soon lead to more serious incidents and consequences for both fans and the country’s national team.