England’s football players were booed in Puskás Aréna on Saturday when they took a knee before kick-off in the first round of the Nations League tournament.
The game was supposed to be played behind closed doors due to previous racist abuse from Hungarian fans, but organizers found a loophole that allowed young children to get in with adult supervision. Thus there were around 30,000 children and 3,000 adults in attendance at the game.
But as the English players kneeled down as a sign of protest against racism, they were greeted with loud boos from the stands. It was England’s first visit to the stadium since the team experienced racial abuse last year.
Hungary’s pro-government media enthusiastically reported on the story, such as an Origo article titled “This is How Hungarian Children Booed the Kneeling Ridiculousness of the English” or Mandiner noting that “children did not care for the Western European gesture.”
Following the game, England manager Gareth Southgate said he couldn’t understand why his players taking a knee at Puskas Arena caused a negative reaction, but thought it could be “inherited thinking.”
Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary for International Communication, appeared to defend the act, writing on Twitter that “Anyone who thinks that children attending a football match in Budapest can be blamed for any kind of political statement is truly an idiot.”
However, Southgate appeared to put the blame squarely on the adults accompanying the children:
I have no idea why people would choose to boo that gesture and very often young people can’t know why they’re doing it so they’re being influenced by older adults – everyone knows what we believe and what we stand for.