An exhibition entitled “Game Changers,” featuring the life stories of athletes who were unique pioneers and role models in forging relations between Hungary and Israel, opened on Wednesday at the New Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium.
At the opening ceremony of the exhibition, Márton Schőberl, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFA), underlined that he believes that the true dimension of the relationship between the two nations is not just about international relations.
“There is a kind of intimacy between Hungary and Israel, thousands of family ties, shared history, joys and pains”
– said the deputy state secretary. He added that the list of names of people who connect the two nations is very long.
“It is, however, more important to stress that they are a source of pride for both countries and a common heritage that we should cherish.”
– said Márton Schőberl.
The exhibition, jointly organized by the Sports Diplomacy Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFA) and the Embassy of the State of Israel in Budapest, presents athletes of Jewish origin who have contributed to the success of Hungarian and Israeli sports. Most of them, however, had to struggle not only on the sports field, but also on the obstacle course that history had thrown in front of them.
In his speech, Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, Israel’s Ambassador in Budapest, pointed out that Jews have a 130-year history and role in the development of modern sports in Hungary.
“These athletes had to face many difficulties in their careers and had to make the most of their abilities simply because they were Jews in an antisemitic environment”
– stated the ambassador, who then gave some concrete examples. Among others, he listed swimmer Alfréd Hajós, the first Hungarian Olympic champion in the history of both Hungarian and Jewish sports, and Attila Petschauer, a fencer who died in a labor camp during the war. He also mentioned Ágnes Keleti, soon to celebrate her 101st birthday, who won 10 Olympic medals, including five golds, and became the “founding mother” of Israeli women’s gymnastics.
Jenő Sipos, a spokesman for the Hungarian Football Association, quoted former legendary MTK president Alfred Brüll, who said
sports are the most democratic of human activities, where neither rank nor birth nor wealth matters, only ability.
“We are proud of the footballers who have represented Hungarian football in Israel over the past decades, including the three kings István Pisont, István Hamar and István Sallói, and also Gábor Márton, Gábor Halmai and László Czéh, who have all stood their ground as men.”
Gábor Kubatov, President of Ferencváros TC, said that sports are one of the most effective tools to turn things around in a good direction.
“The athletes you see here are unique and worthy examples because they have refuted prejudices”
– he said, then singling out from the Jewish athletes who wore the green and white, György Kárpáti, a three-time Olympic champion, who he called the Puskas of water polo.
Ildikó Buranits, Vice President of MTK Budapest, pointed out that
among the athletes who were included in the Golden Book of the blue and white club were several of Jewish origin, including the captain of football’s Golden Team, the undeservedly forgotten Gusztáv Sebes.
At the end of her speech, she listed footballers with links to MTK Budapest who also played in Israel, including Gábor Halmai, István Hamar and the team’s current head coach, Gábor Márton.
The exhibition will be on display in the New Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium for the next few weeks, and from spring 2022, it will be on display in the Puskás Arena Park.