Tamás Deutsch is not planning on retreating from political life — he is still motivated by dreams of “saving the world.” Neokohn’s Róbert Wallenstein sat down for an interview with Deutsch, one of the founders of Fidesz, where he discussed his heated debate with one far-right politician, personal fulfillment at MTK, the future of Fidesz in Europe and openness to same-sex relations, as well as the hypocrisy of the Left.
I didn’t want to start a personal interview with a direct political issue, but recent American events can’t be avoided. What did you think when you first saw the series of images of the Capitol invasion?
In connection to what I wrote in my Facebook post: “First Black Lives Matter, now Nothing Matters. United States of Anarchy. That’s it.” I would like to quickly clarify: It is not just because I’m a politician that I inherently reject all forms of violence. If I had to, of course, I would defend myself, but I have hated all kinds of fighting and verbal aggression since I was a child.
A little over 170 years ago, the self-proclaimed progressives of the Left, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, wrote the Communist Manifesto in which they introduced open political violence as a political instrument that fell under one’s civil rights. On the left, this idea has been the norm ever since.
The Left, which calls itself progressive, constantly uses open and harsh violence and thus legitimizes it. But, of course, if anyone other than them commits the slightest act of violence — which, not to be misunderstood, is, of course, deeply reprehensible — then, as the world champion of political hypocrisy, they are among the first and loudest to express their outrage. And it is usually precisely these left-wing politicians and commentators who condemn violence in politics in such a conscientious and institutionalized way to achieve their own political and power goals. As to the American Progressive Left, we can remember their brutally violent actions from the past decade, such as the Occupy movement, or most recently the violent street pogroms of Black Lives Matter and Antifa.
The Biden campaign built upon Black Lives Matter’s series of violent actions in a conscious, meticulously planned way and also assisted the activities of these aggressive movements with a myriad of tools. One of the key drivers of the Democrat election campaign was to stir up political dissatisfaction to an extreme through the BLM movement’s violent actions and to then channel the voices of these people in their own constituencies.
Of course, whatever the Democrats did during the campaign doesn’t legitimize other acts of violence. While there are three mysterious points at the end of my post , in reality, for quite some time now, there has been only one point to make in the end: The U.S. may be the world’s leading power, but it is not the world’s leading democracy. That’s it.
You do not think that Trump has also played a role in all of this?
A non-left-wing politician — in America, this means you are not a Democrat — can only be successful if he recognizes that the democratic political systems of modern and postmodern ages work in such a way that one of their defining principles is the application of double standards. This means that everything is free for the Left, nothing is free for the non-Left. But if the question is whether or not a political leader who calls his followers to a demonstration bears responsibility for their actions, then, if he gives an incendiary speech and some of the participants leave this demonstration to forcibly storm the legislature of their own country, then this politician, of course, bears responsibility.
Of course, if in the months before that anyone asked if Democratic politicians bore any responsibility for, over the course of months, the centers of dozens of American cities being on fire, hundreds of public buildings being raided by protesters, aggressive activists tearing down statues, shops being looted amidst the chaos, lynchers systematically hunting down police officers, all while Democratic politicians were not only understanding of the perpetrators of the violence but regularly rushed to the barricades raised by the protesters as ardent supporters of their actions — well, then the answer was no, they, of course, bore no responsibility for this violence at all.
You are one of the best-known and, at the same time, most divisive Hungarian political figures. During your more than 30-year career, you have done much, leading to everyone having an opinion about you. For Tamás Deutsch, what is the most and least flattering thing that comes to mind about yourself?
I am diligent and hardworking. This was always typical of me in my studies and work, but in sports, where I might not have had the talent needed for outstanding achievement, I was not diligent enough. I was athletic, I had quite good results for my age group, but I wasn’t on par with the best in my age group. I had hoped to participate in the Olympics just once [as a swimmer ], but it soon became clear that that was an unattainable dream for me. One of my good qualities is that I am caring and methodical; you can count on me for housework as well. And I have a good sense of humor, which I inherited from my father.
My brother and I have a huge sense of humor; they say this is such a typical Jewish trait: We can always make a joke about anything in any situation.
One of my bad qualities, I think, is that I am much more impatient with others than I would like to be. Interestingly, the closer someone is to me, the more likely they are to perceive this. I’m basically a pious, lovable figure who has a good head on his shoulders, but the thing is, whoever is a public figure has to deal with the fact that the public’s image of you is often quite different than your true self.
For most, your image evokes two types: Tamás Deutsch the heartbreaker and Tamás Deutsch the man who likes the spell of intoxicants. The former is fairly well documented: You are in your third marriage; your wife was just named Coach of the Year at your own club, MTK, a few days ago. The latter, meanwhile, is a known cliché due to a former fellow MP, w ho openly used drugs and was convicted in court, calling you a drug addict. In a video chat, you told the news portal Index briefly two years ago, “I was terrified of drugs; this is another story.” If this is an interesting story, could you tell us about it?
Fifteen years ago, I talked about this childhood experience in another Index interview, so I don’t know how interesting it is still. I was in elementary school when a German crime film was shown on TV; a young girl had her drink drugged so that she was rendered helpless and kidnapped. In the film, the effect of the drug on the girl was shown by blurry images, a completely blurred screen, the whole world swaying before her eyes; she had nausea, was vomiting, terribly unfortunate. I should tell you that I go into a panic over nausea and vomiting; I have ever since I was a child, like people who are afraid of going to the dentist. To this day, if I eat too much, I will get so sick, like it’s the end of the world, for several days. So seeing the girl’s suffering from drugs in that film, I made the decision right then and there that I would never try them out of fear of getting sick.
As to my charming image: I’ve always been the romantic type. And maybe there’s some lovable quality about this, I don’t know exactly. If I would say anything here,
it is that maybe my political appeal is that no matter how much I’ve been judged, I have always presented myself genuinely to the public.
I have never lived my life by trying to make sellable, popular decisions in my personal life; I chose what I thought was right and naturally took on the consequences of all of my decisions. When I am older and wiser and can give advice to others, the first thing I will definitely say is to try to always be true to yourself!
Have you thought about the possible repercussions in Hungarian public life of the news that your wife became Coach of the Year at MTK?
Of course. I think is it always a big thing, what happens at MTK, since we are talking about one of the defining clubs of Hungarian sports. So it’s an obvious, serious recognition to be Coach of the Year there. But let’s also admit that even the most fanatical MTK fans may not be able to recall who our Coaches of the Year have been in recent years. It is often said that there is something good about everything bad, so this is now also true of all the malicious digs about my wife’s recognition because this “publicity” has created a great deal of fame for Erika and the sport itself, rhythmic gymnastics.
I am aware that in this arena we call politics, it is a natural part of public life, an everyday workplace hazard, or, if you will, part of the job, to face all sorts of attacks. You either learn to handle them or leave this field quickly. If you are weak, if you whimper, if you feel sorry for yourself because of the unfair and indecent attacks, then this is definitely not the profession for you. As much as I can, of course, I try to protect my family members and loved ones from attacks.
If you yourself say you’ve been afraid for your loved ones, then did it not ever occur to you that you would be putting them in a situation where they may be caught in the crossfire?
I think this is an important issue, so let’s stop here for a moment. At MTK, we present three such awards each year: Athlete of the Year, Junior Athlete of the Year and Coach of the Year. Each of our departments proposes nominees for all three titles. Last year, my wife got the most votes. She has been serving the rhythmic gymnastics department of MTK for 10 years and is the chairman of the Technical Committee of the Hungarian Rhythmic Gymnastics Association, and the coach for both adult and younger age groups in individual and team. Proving her international recognition, she will be a judge at the Tokyo Olympics, as decided by the International Tournament Federation, and at last year’s European Championships, one of her students, Evelin Kocsis, who became the MTK youth athlete of the year for 2020, made sports history by winning the first individual European Championship medal in the history of Hungarian rhythmic gymnastics. Her other student, the best adult Hungarian rhythmic gymnastics competitor, Fanni Pigniczki, achieved the best individual all-round results of all time, finishing 11th in the European Championship and has a realistic chance of obtaining an Olympic qualification. Now, after the decision of the departments, should I have said, “Erika, don’t accept the title of Coach of the Year because maybe they’ll give us a hard time”?!
I am not saying that it has never happened that a public figure has inappropriately favored his family.
But it is completely ridiculous that if you are a member of a politician’s family, you can do nothing, nothing at all, and that you should just spend your life in a darkened apartment, because if you achieve anything, you will immediately be accused of not owing your success to your own performance. This accusing, stigmatizing logic is sick! I am proud of my wife and the outstanding results she has achieved!
From the energy in your responses so far, it’s clear you have been able to rest over these last few weeks of holiday. Did you also have a chance to recover from your disenfranchisement in Brussels?
After long sleepless nights and several serious self-examinations, I somehow pulled myself together… On a serious note, this whole story was a very typical situation where it could be seen well in advance of the campaign against me that there would be no winners, only losers.
What’s at stake with this whole issue for your own political career and for Fidesz?
What is at stake? Our friends and opponents have seen that we are shockproof politicians.
On the other hand, with regard to the accusations that have been concocted against us for years, the real questions remain: What is the future of the People’s Party, how can a European cooperation work, and what is the future of Europe?
You hear about several possibilities. Will Fidesz remain in the EPP, join another party, or continue working as an independent actor? What kind of scenario do you feel is realistic?
The public news stream is dominated by the tabloids, political tabloids, and in this genre, the major news stories are whether or not Fidesz has been excluded, if Fidesz exited the party or if it has not. People are, of course, interested in tabloid news, but I don’t think they’re equally curious about the fundamental issues that directly and deeply affect their personal lives. Will we be able to defend Europe against the influx of illegal migrants, will we be able to defend our traditional European way of life, will we be able to defend our national and constitutional sovereignty against the forces that want to transform our European cooperation with the intent of creating a federalized Europe, a European empire?
So the decisive question is not whether Fidesz will leave the European People’s Party or not, as this will have zero impact on the price of the bread on your table.
But like me, international opinion obviously matters to many other people as well, that is, how their country is mentioned in a European context. The political battles you call superficial can also affect how the citizens of a given state are seen. So I ask again, what scenario do you see as realistic?
I agree that the ultimate meaning of everything we do in Brussels is how successful and how effective Hungarian national interests, the interests of Hungarian citizens, are represented. That is why I consider it an action against the common interest of all Hungarians that the Hungarian Left, without thinking, always pushes bad news about its own country and never shies away from spreading — and even inventing — the grossest of lies, as their power and political interests dictate. But to answer your question, I think there is a 50-50 chance that we will be able to reach an agreement in the People’s Party on medium- and long-term cooperation or that our discussions will lead us to part ways. I think we will reach a conclusion this spring at the latest, and then this situation, which has been up in the air since 2019, will finally be resolved.
Did you ever think that whatever happened, you would just get out of the whole business and, say… be a model? Because back in 1989 you experimented with this a bit. In a jeans commercial, you stated: “Performance is close to me… I love filming, I don’t rule out being in a film”…
Unlike modeling, filming has always been of interest to me, but not in terms of performing but the filmmaking itself. Few know, but I also applied to study this in college and even made it through the first round. Géza Röhrig [poet and actor known for his role in Academy Award-winning Son of Saul], with whom I was friends in high school, also applied at the time and was admitted. Géza was a real alternative figure, a fantastic character even then. We weren’t close friends, but we knew about each other. Károly Makk was the head of my admissions committee, who at the end of the admissions interview told me, rather ironically given his position, “Tamás, I see that you are currently a sophomore in law school and are en route to having a normal profession. So why do you want to be a film director?”
And as for your own political career? As the impulsive man you clearly seem to be, how have you been able to accept that despite some rather impressive-sounding titles — the president of MTK, the vice-president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee, the vice-president of the Hungarian Paralympic Committee and the president of the National Association of Sports Clubs — people have somehow not thought of you as one of the most relevant decision-makers over the last 10-15 years. I have heard this from former political journalists and, moreover, from your own colleagues in Fidesz. Are you professionally satisfied with where you are right now?
I am sorry to say to those who are perhaps awaiting other news: I have no intention of getting out. I am a politician, this is my profession and I am proud of it. So there is no chance of me resigning. I think it is only natural in a political party that there are those who belong to the group of the most decisive decision-makers in a given period — a year, two years, five years. I was in the most decisive circle of decision-makers, I was among the most decisive decision-makers, and I was also in a situation where I was not a member of these main decision-making circles.
I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten a lot more out of my career than I could have ever hoped for.
I was a government representative for a local district, a representative for the local government in Budapest, and a member of the Hungarian Parliament. I have been a member of the European Parliament for 12 years, and I was the vice-president of the parliament, a minister and a commissioner for the prime minister. So I have never felt lacking. Some people say that the European Parliament delegation is a parking lot in Brussels. But please, there are 21 Hungarian MEPs, while there are 199 MEPs in the Hungarian Parliament. It is much more difficult to get on the EP electoral list than to get into the Hungarian Parliament. But if it’s a parking lot, I wish everyone a parking lot like the one I’ve been given.
We have not been politicians for more than 30 years because we had ambitions for a certain political position but because we had dreams of saving the world, dreams I have had ever since. From the very beginning, I have been working to make Hungary, the Hungarian nation, free and successful.
I believe that the management of public affairs is something that can only be done in a competent way.
For the time we have left, let’s talk about identity. On a program with Sándor Friderikusz, you told him that you were 11 when confronted with your Jewish identity, which you “reflect upon with natural pride.” While many of our readers would probably like to hear about whether a Christmas tree or Hanukkah candles — perhaps both — adorned the Deutsch family apartment last month, I am more interested in how, as a 20-year-old, liberal, Jewish native, you experienced the chauvinist-anti-Semitic environment of the time. Were there examples of this out of MIÉP [the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party], and even from József Torgyán — later a Fidesz coalition partner — who was famous in the mid-90s for insulting certain groups by questioning their loyalty to Hungary?
The history of anti-Semitic statements against Fidesz and me dates back as far as the history of Fidesz. In the early 1990s, in the first campaign leading up to free elections, for example, the Left Youth Association, BIT, which was the youth organization of MSZP [Hungarian Socialist Party], put up anti-Semitic posters across half of the country labeled “ZSIDESZ.”
I still find all such statements disgraceful today. And I have always voiced my outrage, my protest against them.
In what form did you do this? I don’t really remember any big examples at the time. Did you have a case like this?
There were. And nothing minor. For example, there was a big debate with far-right politician István Csurka at a Media Hajó event in Visegrád. I knew him personally from before, I met him back in 1988, and like other people of Jewish descent, I can say that despite his countless anti-Semitic political statements, we had a good personal relationship. But then,
in the early 90s, one of the biggest public verbal confrontation of my life took place with Csurka. It all started when during the roundtable discussion, he said “yes, yes, but everybody knows Tamás Deutsch is an MTK fan.”
I don’t remember exactly what I said but I struck back with some pretty witty lines and the audience was howling with laughter. I succeeded in putting Csurka in his place.
Otherwise, how self-conscious were you about being a Jew in Fidesz? And how much did that later change when your party was criticized by many, especially when anti-Semitic accusations were made against several of your fellow politicians?
Thank God I had the benefit of a proper upbringing, and I never had any uncertainty about my identity. I knew about my family history going back several generations. On my father’s side, I have my Jewish family with a Hungarian sentimentality and identity, who, after World War II, came to the conclusion that it was best to let go of their Jewish religion in order to survive and avoid another threat. In fact, my grandfather even translated his name into Hungarian, and my grandmother kept asking my father, I still remember well, when he would be “Hungarianizing” his name. Until 1945, my father had grown up in a family that followed kosher rules, Jewish traditions and religion, but he only spoke to me about our Jewish identity when I was 11 years old.
One weekend, we parked on the corner of Dohány and Wesselényi streets, at the Synagogue. We had been there hundreds of times before because one of my grandmother’s brothers lived there; we were going to visit him then as well. But this time, as we were walking past the Synagogue, my father said, as naturally as possible, “You know, Tomikam, when I was about your age, my best friend Ervin and I spent a lot of time heading the soccer ball around here under the arcades of the Synagogue. By the way, we are also Jews.”
Even before then, we had talked a lot at home about the special stories of family members, it was natural for us; but interestingly, until my father said this, the fact that anyone was Jewish in our family never came up. We listened curiously to these old tales from my father, who escaped deportation with his parents, grandparents, and aunt simply by being returned to the ghetto because there were not enough cattle cars to take them away, presumably to Auschwitz. Only once in my life have I been in an environment where anti-Semitic statements were made non-stop: when I was conscripted. I had a very hard time having to listen to such horrible words continuously, and my dad and I had a long correspondence about them. There was perhaps another time that my Jewishness caused me pain: I was a sophomore when I fell in love with the most beautiful girl in school, who reciprocated my feelings. I was walking on air, I was so happy. One day after I escorted her home, Susanna told me in front of their house that because I was Jewish, her parents would never allow me to go up to their apartment. I do not know what was greater, her shame or my shock…
We became politicians at a very young age. In this occupation, unfortunately, it is a professional hazard to be the target of profuse blasphemy. And if you happen to be Jewish, you get anti-Semitic insults, too. The abuse from those who sent anonymous letters, commentators, strangers scribbling the Star of David on my posters, I have totally ignored all of this throughout my life, it has never bothered me. I partly feel sorry for them and partly just couldn’t give a damn . But the situation is quite different with the anti-Semitic rudeness of political actors. This really gets to me.
But thank heaven, the situation in politics is quite different from what it was in the military, where if you are Jewish, you can say nothing no matter how outraged you are inside.
There has never been a question in politics that if I have to, I will speak out against anti-Semitic statements: I stand up for myself, for my family; I stand up for Hungarian Jews, for Jewish Hungarians.
Fidesz is my political family, where I had neither an advantage nor a disadvantage because of my Judaism.
Then let’s look at the identity of Fidesz and Hungary from a certain perspective. Do you think that the maximization of power in the classical sense of political science could have caused Fidesz, which started from a liberal direction, to end up governing the leading illiberal state of Europe with its Christian-conservative ideals?
I am reminded of a Fidel Castro joke about this issue: Castro opened the Discovery of America Museum in Havana. They managed to invite almost all the heads of state of the world to the opening, with Castro leading the exhibition himself, of course, with several hours of lectures. After a while, the guests became increasingly exhausted, but they were kept engaged by the promise of seeing the greatest sensation of the exhibit in the last hall. After many, many hours, the guests entered the last room with great anticipation. There were just two pedestals with two skulls of different sizes, and Fidel Castro said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the childhood and adult skull of Christopher Columbus.” So, has Fidesz changed? Of course, it has changed. Has it become different? No, it has stayed the same.
In a system where you consistently claim that left-wing and liberal tendencies want to create the United States of Europe, how can Hungary’s identity be interpreted?
For the future of Europe, I believe that the fact that, in addition to its historical and cultural traditions, the idea and cooperation of Central Europe has become an economic and geopolitical reality in the Union over the last decade is of great significance. Historian Jenő Szűcs, in his sensational essay, “Vázlat Európa,” details the three historical regions of Europe, placing the independent growth region of Central Europe (Central and Eastern Europe) between Western and Eastern Europe. And this Central European idea in the second decade of the 21st century is embodied in the cooperation of the Visegrád Four [Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic] in politics. Thus, Central Europe appears in Europe with its own independent identity, building on its existing historical, cultural and constitutional traditions. And in the face of increasingly violent federal, genuinely imperial-style efforts to transform Europe, we have this Central European idea, which represents the original objectives of European cooperation, the values of cooperation between Member States based on mutual respect and cooperation in good faith, based on a balance between strong nation-states and the effective exercise of common European competencies.
It is important to note that the great historical conflicts of Europe in the last two or three hundred years were not fueled by the tension of nationalism, but by imperial aspirations.
That is why all imperial aspirations in Europe are a threat to our existence, and let us not forget that these empires all thought that they were bringing peace and development, that they would be better than the previous empires, that the people would love them, and that they would not make the mistakes of previous empires. From the Third Reich to the Soviet Empire, it was seriously thought that this would be the case. But there is no good and no lovable empire in Europe. Conflicts in Europe have always been caused by imperial thinking. This is why nation-states with strong identities and independence are critical.
In this ideologically complex Europe, which often seems to be bogged down in identity politics, the Hungarian government has recently indicated in a constitutional amendment what it thinks of the family and classical gender roles. This constitutional process, which generated controversy, was followed by another hard-to-forget matter, the Szájer affair, which put forth some grotesque and absurd elements. Do you think those who might be attracted to their own gender in Fidesz, no matter what talented abilities they may have, will ever be released from their political quarantine?
I don’t think there’s any such quarantine. I encourage everyone to live according to the way they choose.
So does that mean it will fit into your political family if one of your fellow Members openly assumes a homosexual life?
Why not? There is no problem with it. In our political family, sexual orientation or someone’s form of commitment is not a political achievement.
The perception and legal definition of love, sexual intercourse, cohabitation, and marriage in our everyday lives are not the same. Is everyone free to love? Yes! Should people be discriminated against based on the fact that they are heterosexual or homosexual? Of course not! Should you be able to choose your partner freely? Naturally. In a European way of life based on Judeo-Christian traditions, is marriage defined by a man and a woman deciding to lead their life together? Yes! In the language of law: In Hungary, two people can live in a legally regulated relationship in three legal forms. Cohabitation, registered partnership and marriage. Two-thirds of these legal forms, cohabitation and registered partnership, are also available to same-sex couples. Hungarian law treats the same-sex community in a permissive and respectful way, and the social and legal institution of marriage is respected and protected in accordance with the traditions of the European way of life that go back a thousand years.
I think it is important to clarify one more thing, because I think that, partly due to deliberate left-wing political misstatements and largely due to general superficiality and ignorance, there are regular misconceptions about how Fidesz reconciles certain things “with the party’s Christian values.” Fidesz is a political and non-religious community: As a civil, national, Christian Democratic party, it represents Christian Democratic values. Christian democracy is the secular, social teaching of Christianity, whereas Christian values are the religious values professed and represented by believers in their personal and ecclesiastic communities. Fidesz represents secular Christian democratic values, programs and solutions.
We protect Christian values, of course, just as we protect national values, even though Fidesz is not a nation. József Antall used to say, quite rightly, that “in Europe, atheists are also Christians.” Antall’s wise words perfectly describe that in Europe, in our European way of life, the system of moral norms that define the personal lives of believers and non-believers is based on the same Christian-Jewish tradition. If we want to articulate moral values, make choices about our own lives, if we seek answers to the questions of what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong, we all follow the same core values that are in the Ten Commandments.
In connection with the Szájer scandal, for example, it has been repeatedly raised that he denied being what he was, that he lied about it. But is a lie wrong only for a believing Christian man, but right for a non-believer?
It is not only contrary to the religious and moral values of a believing Jew or Christian to lie, but also to the general moral conception of an atheist. In political debates, the left, guided by its stance of being viscerally anti-religious, indirectly claims to be immoral, as they argue that only we have moral rules that have not been followed. I have a much higher opinion of them than that. I think the left also follows general moral commandments and tries to keep them, although, obviously, they too are sometimes only mortal.
To conclude our conversation, let’s talk about sports. Here we sit in the MTK football stadium. Do you remember the first time you were on Hungária Boulevard [the Új Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium]?
I was six years old, and in 1972, after a long request, my dad finally brought me out for a match. We played against Csepel and won 3-1.
Did you think then you would be the president of MTK almost half a century later, and be running the club for more than 10 years now?
MTK has been a defining part of my life since I was a child. My grandfather, father, and many, many other relatives were all big MTK fans, but it didn’t occur to me that I would ever be president of this wonderful club.
I’ve talked to several MTK fans in recent days, including ones who I know do not identify with NER [Fidesz’ National Cooperation System] in any way. Yet almost everyone has pointed out that you are definitely a unique club leader in the sense that you have always been able to keep your political activity separate from your club leadership responsibilities. Is this loyalty to blue and white [colors of MTK] due to your family connection?
Every day and in every situation, I take seriously what the Left hypocritically and accusingly asks us so often in political debates, when it shouts that Fidesz mixes its politics with sports: I do not confuse sports with politics. At MTK, we don’t put any day-to-day politics into our activities. I enjoy normal, good relations with deeply committed left-wing voters there. For example, with Laci Szily, a member of the MTK ultras [extreme fan club] who is a columnist at 444.hu [a liberal news platform], there are obviously few things we would agree on in politics. But Laci also says we have a completely normal and trusting relationship here in the club, regardless of party sympathy.
We are a sports family with a long history; what brings us together is not the similarity of our political views but our love of sports, as well as similar family and cultural traditions.
We are an excellent example of how this can work without any difficulty. Nobody doesn’t speak to someone else because they are part of Fidesz or MSZP. For example,
nobody feels it would be difficult to talk to me at the club because they greeted Gyurcsány with a kiss at a campaign meeting.
My work at MTK has brought professional fulfillment to my life. Fortunately, I have had many great responsibilities throughout my career, but personally, I consider my 10-year presidency at MTK to be my greatest professional success.
How many people do you think know that the two best tennis players in Hungary, Tímea Babos and Márton Fucsovics, play for MTK?
I think very few. And that’s a big mistake. I have long believed that when newspapers report on individual sporting events and results, they should include the name of the club the athlete belongs to.
What about the club’s classic sports such as wrestling or track? In contrast, the e-sports division, computer games, had a big launch and seems to be a big deal, at least according to some fans. Also, what do you have to say about the Liu Shaolin speed skating brothers, Olympic gold medalists, going over to your ancient rival Ferencváros….?
We strive to make as many sports available at MTK and to have a healthy balance within the club between the traditional sports MTK has been successful at, the sports Hungary is famous for, and the new sports. But there is nothing in the world that cannot be done better. It is clear that we also need to develop and catch up in certain areas. There are still sports in the club that, based on international results, cannot be said to be a driving force of the Hungarian sports world, but they still belong to the tradition of MTK and are very much part of our family. One such sport is rowing.
And there are also new-generation sports like karate, which we created in 2012, when it was not even an Olympic sport; today it is. Computer games also belong to the same category of new-generation sports. There’s nothing really to discuss here; whether you like it or not, e-sports are a dynamically evolving sport, and MTK has always been at the forefront of such new sports. I can say that in five years’ time, there will be e-sports departments in even smaller cities’ clubs. MTK has already had one for three years.
As for the Liu brothers, their contract expired and they felt they needed a change of environment, new energy. As MTK athletes, they made sports history together by winning the first Hungarian Winter Olympic championship title. This is our common pride. And I’m sure one or both of them will win Olympic gold individually as well. They are geniuses, and a genius needs to be able to be free; if we had locked them in by insisting on staying at all costs, it would never have worked. They had to be let go, as with their performance, they primarily serve the world of Hungarian sports in general — compared to which one’s club colors are only secondary.
Neokohn has written several times about the 2019 Maccabi European Games in Budapest, which you also played a role in. Moreover, we also wrote that you promised a state-funded Jewish sports center in Budapest. What’s going on with the plans here, as we haven’t heard anything about it in a long time.
The government’s intention is still clear: an independent Jewish sports center will be built. But, unfortunately, it is taking longer than expected, despite our intensive work on it. The facility will be built within five years. The concept of the complex will be developed under the joint professional care of Mazsihisz and Maccabi VAC, and the investment will be implemented with state funding. I will continue to do my utmost for the development to be completed, and I will constantly remind my friend Balázs Fürjes, the Secretary of State responsible for the development of Budapest and its suburbs, of the government’s commitment to this project.