Ferencváros of Felvidék
Viktor Orbán’s beloved football supported by millions from Budapest
Hungarian government invests billions of forints each year into Hungarian communities in neighbouring countries. ICJK has had access to the documents that show the sole agency of Hungarian government Gabor Bethlen Fund approved more than 144 millions of euros to entities in Slovakia since 2011. Money was sent to cultural organizations, Reformed Christian Church, for the reconstructions of schools and kindergartens, media, but thousands of euro ended up on the accounts of organizations connected to the Slovak Hungarian politicians. Budapest also supported an important symbol – Slovak Hungarian football club “Ferencváros of Felvidék” FC DAC Dunajská Streda and its football academy, both connected to the allegedly most influential person of Slovak Hungarian politics Oszkár Világi.
In the first years of its operation, BGA supported significantly fewer projects and the money went mainly to operational costs. The subsidies were received mainly by institutions and organizations that are on the List of institutions of national importance. They receive financial support continuously and without it they would probably not survive. The list includes entities that, according to the Hungarian government, are key to Hungarian foreign communities. However, whoever gets on this list is the decision of Budapest.
In the case of Slovakia, the List of institutions of national importance includes Hungarian theaters, János Selye University, the Csemadok Association or the Forum Institute for Minority Research and another 20 organizations on the list.
In recent years, however, it is no longer just a matter of “covering operating costs” and the largest subsidies no longer end only in institutions of national importance. They flew to the reconstruction of kindergartens and schools, the purchase of real estate or the previously mentioned football. The Reformed Christian Church in Slovakia (the majority of its members are residents of Hungarian nationality), the Pro Media Foundation, CSEMADOK, DAC Academy or KFC Komárno appear among the largest recipients every year.
According to political scientist Kálmán Petőcz, the Hungarian government subsidizes the Hungarian minority in Slovakia is not a problem. Another question, however, according to him, is when it gives preference to some selected subjects on the ideological basis through subsidies. Petőcz adds that he is not sure whether the support of the companies through Hungarian subsidy schemes is not an unfair competition. The Hungarian government is unnaturally interfering in the processes in southern Slovakia, but the Slovak government is not doing anything about it.
According to Petőcz, it is absolutely evident that the individual entities are supported by Budapest on the basis of ideological balance, which distorts competition, politics and everything else.
“Yes, southern Slovakia is discriminated against, but the solution to this problem is not the uncontrollable inflow of funds, which are distributed on the basis of an ideology and not quality, distorting not only economic but also cultural competition. From the point of view of the Hungarian community in Slovakia, it is unhealthy and starts deforming processes, “adds Petőcz.
“If you compare an organisation which was formed a few weeks ago, it doesn’t have a website and we don’t know anything about it, but it receives millions of forints, and on the contrary the organizations with a long tradition get almost nothing, it’s definitely arrogance of power,” adds Péter Hunčík. If the money, according to him, really goes to culture or sports, then that’s correct. “But if an NGO or sports organization is just a cover for pouring money to a political party, then of course it’s not okay,” says Hunčík, a writer and active member of the community.
DAC – Ferencváros of Felvidék
In recent years, football, Viktor Orbán’s favorite sport, has become one of the most supported areas by the Hungarian government. And millions of euros flow mainly to the DAC Dunajská Streda, owned by Orbán’s longtime friend Oszkár Világi, and to the DAC football academy run by his daughter. No wonder, the DAC has been a symbol of Hungarians in Slovakia for many years. Before the games, the Hungarian national anthem is sung. During the election campaign signatures were collected for the Political Party of Cooperation and the party’s election song was played at the stadium. No wonder Hungarian entities under government control also contributed to the construction of the new DAC arena.
Who is Oszkár Világi?
Oszkár Világi is well-known on the Slovak and Hungarian political scene. He appeared in 1989 as a young lawyer at the Independent Hungarian Initiative (Független Magyar Kezdeményezés, FMK), and gradually developed into a member of the Czechoslovak Federal Parliament, and over the next decade became one of the most influential men in the business background of Hungarian politics in Slovakia. They have been friends with the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for decades, meeting regularly, for example in Dunajská Streda, the hometown of DAC or at the Tusványos festival in Transylvania, where Orbán usually presents his visions every year of how politics works. In the world of business and politics, Világi is considered a capable manager who has a huge capital of acquaintances and connections, and can handle anything.
Oszkár Világi (in the middle). Source: fcdac.sk
Oszkár Világi (in the middle). Source: fcdac.sk
However, Világi denies that Viktor Orbán and the Gábor Bethlen Foundation would intervene in the political campaign in Southern Slovakia through DAC. ” DAC is an apolitical organization, it has no political activities. The foundation does not support the DAC club itself, but the academy, which is focused on supporting young sports talents” says Világi, adding that he himself does not financially support any political party.
In 2008, DAC was a devastated club. On 1. November 2008 an event emerged that helped to strengthen the identity of Hungarian football. At the DAC game with Slovan, the club with the strongest Slovak nationalist identity, a fight broke out between the fans. The police reacted very vigorously, but only against DAC fans: the result was more than 50 injured DAC fans, and a major political case between Hungary and Slovakia at a time when Robert Fico’s first government with the participation of the HZDS and the SNS was playing the so-called “Hungarian card”. The relations between Hungarians and Slovaks were basically at a freezing point not only on an international level, but also in Slovakia.
Világi came up with a magnificent concept for saving the club. The declining team from a small town in southern Slovakia has become one of the strongest clubs in the country in a few years, has already appeared in European cups – with a new stadium and a new football academy, DAC has become a strong brand that went beyond Žitný ostrov (Kukkonia). Világi did not even hide the fact that the club is being built as a symbol of Hungarians in Slovakia. “Both I and Slovak Hungarians should be responsible for this club. The club can only function if it has fans “- he said in an interview in 2014.
When someone asks Oszkár Világi why was it necessary to receive money for the DAC stadium and academy from the Hungarian government and the Hungarian state oil giant MOL, he replies that this money was actually received by Slovak Hungarians from their own taxes – as many of them work or shop in border areas, and are part of the economic life of those regions.
MOL Arena, home of the DAC, cost a total of 29 million euros, of which 20.5 million was paid from its own resources and from a loan. The Slovak Football Association added 3.9 million, and MOL 2.6 million. The town of Dunajská Streda gave the land for 2 million euros.
More interestingly, the DAC academy, which opened in 2018, and cost 14 million euros. The Slovak Football Association contributed 500,000 euros, the club gave 3 million, another 3 million came from a bank loan. The Hungarian Football Association contributed more than 6.5 million euros. From the documents that were studied within the project, it is clear that another million were added by the Gábor Bethlen Fund (BGA). The football academy is one of the best equipped in Central Europe – with 10 pitches on 18 hectares and a very well-equipped main building. The academy was opened by Viktor Orbán. In his speech he spoke about good cooperation in the field of sports between Slovakia and Hungary. “Sport is our common language, sport unites us, the Hungarian government will therefore support the establishment of academies throughout the Carpathian Basin” – said the Hungarian Prime Minister.
The Hungarian government did not only contribute to the construction of the academy: it also supported its operation. In December 2018, on behalf of DAC Academy Réka Világi, daughter of Oszkár Világi and the chairwoman of the board of the academy requested another subsidy in the amount of 1.35 billion forints (more than 4 million euros). Of this, 420,000 euro for the operation of the academy, the rest to the completion of the main building of the academy (900,000 euros), and to the renovation of the boarding school of the academy (2.5 million euros). For another 300,000 euros, they planned to buy various machines for the maintenance of the academy and for equipping the premises.
At the end of 2019, the DAC Academy applied again for a subsidy from the Hungarian government, this time for a smaller amount (600 million forints, about 2 million euros). They requested one hundred thousand euros for the salaries of employees, 200,000 for overheads, 136 thousand for the maintenance of playgrounds and premises. Another 735,000 euros were planned to be spent to complete the renovation of the dormitory and the construction of a rehabilitation tract, they also bought a bus, massage beds, sports equipment and, for example, bicycles.
About 300 young footballers in 14 teams have been playing at the academy, not only from Dunajská Streda, but also from the surrounding areas and from Hungary. Világi says that he wants to get the players of the academy to play in the DAC in the Slovak league and in the European cups. The owner of the club thinks that Slovak and Hungarian football will benefit from the academy. And what do Hungarian taxpayers get out of this? Világi believes that players raised at the DAC Academy will also appear in the Hungarian national football team in the future.
Source: Facebok/ MOL Football academy
DAC is not the only club in Slovakia that has received a huge subsidy from the Hungarian government. But while Oszkár Világi had a professional plan on how to use this money, the plan of the KFC in Komárno is much less clear. Football in Komárno has a rich tradition, but the local club has never been as successful as the DAC. Sports life in the town has been dominated by canoeing, basketball, water polo and volleyball, while the football club has been playing in lower competitions in recent decades.
However, Attila Czíria, a former joint candidate of the SMK and Most-Híd for the mayor of Komárno, told Átlátszó that when he met Viktor Orbán at an informal meeting in 2014, Hungarian prime minister promised him to help Komárno. Czíria allegedly started talking about the agricultural high school, the port and the building of the former polyclinic, but Orbán asked if they would consider a new football stadium.
According to documents available to the ICJK, KFC was granted by the Gábor Bethlen Fund 300 million forints (almost 1 million euros) to operate for 2019, and another 260 million for 2020. In 2019, for salaries and travel expenses 589 thousand euros, another 344 thousand on the operation of the club – for meals and accommodation of the team, for the referees, or for fuel for the club’s buses. They requested for and received 56,000 euros for KFC diesel fuel, and only this amount is higher than the club’s subsidy from the city.
For 2020, KFC received a little less money from the Hungarian government for the operation, they requested 453 thousand euros for wages, and 332 thousand for current expenditures. But the money were approved for the construction of the stadium: according to the document, over 4.9 million euros for construction work and renovation, and more than one million euros for equipment and expenses before the construction, a total of 6.04 million.
And why football? Football is the lifelong love of Viktor Orbán, in Hungary it was played in front of the spectators even at a time when the surrounding countries had long ago closed the stadiums due to the Covid19 pandemic. In addition, football has always helped to build identity around the world. In the Hungarian environment, this combination is straightforward. In the stadiums, the heterogeneity of the fans is lost – they are part of the symbolic fight on the lawn and in the stands. And not just for ninety minutes.
The identities of large clubs in Hungary are given not only by where they operate or by history, but often also by national, social or political affiliation. The most famous duel of Hungarian football, between the Budapest clubs Újpest and Ferencváros, for example, is based on a multi-layered duel of identities: the local one was replaced by a political rivalry during the decades of communism. And although after the change of regime in 1989, the core of fans of both clubs (the so-called Ultras) joined the radical right, the rivalry and identity dug so deep that it persisted for decades to come.
Symbolic identity is also common for some football clubs in Slovakia, but DAC fans in Dunajská Streda undoubtedly have the strongest identity – and this is also a multi-layered identity. DAC, which was nicknamed “Ferencváros of Felvidék” has been the football club of the Hungarian minority for decades, but over the last 12 years this identity has been built more and more systematically and professionally – and the political atmosphere in Slovakia and as well in Hungary has helped the process.
Read our series on Hungarian government money flowing to Slovakia