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Romania, Hungary set to revive volatile rivalry on Friday

Sep 5, 2013, 5:15 PM EDT

Two security guards are seen in an empty stadium before the Group D 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match between Hungary and Romania in Budapest Reuters

Romania hosts Hungary on Friday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com) with both nations’ World Cup qualification chances resting on three points. Anything less than a win would put them even further behind pace in UEFA qualifying’s Group D.

Hungary currently holds the second-place spot with 11 points, and Romania is right behind with 10. Only the top team in each group receives automatic qualification — the Netherlands has all but locked that up, with 18 points — with the second-place finishers advancing to a playoff round.

They tied their first meeting in this edition of qualifying, 2-2 on March 22 in Budapest, playing behind closed doors in an empty Ferenc Puskás Stadium (pictured, right) after anti-Semitic chants at an Aug. 15 friendly against Israel forced UEFA to hand down the punishment to the Hungarian federation.

Romania has not qualified for a World Cup since France 1998, while Hungary’s drought dates back to Mexico 1986. Both nations are generations removed from their heydays, when Gheorghe Hagi’s left foot graced Romania’s squad and Puskás’ goal-scoring ability carried Hungary to the 1954 World Cup final.

source:

Translation: “The Hungarian federation reacted firmly and fined four clubs in the first two divisions for anti-Romanian scandals in the stands last weekend. ‘It can also be civilized!’ This should be the mindset of Romanian fans at the game tomorrow.”

Off the field, the countries have a volatile coexistence stemming from Romania’s annexation of Transylvania after World War I. Both countries see the territory, from the Hungarian-Romanian border to the Carpathian Mountains, as rightfully theirs, and nationalist political parties in Budapest have sought to regain the territory in post-communist years by enacting policy giving ethnic Hungarians worldwide, regardless of actual nationality, a right to vote and carry a Hungarian passport.

Hungarians are the largest minority in Romania, and a large number of Romanians speak Hungarian, especially in Transylvania. Hungarian influence in the area, where multiple towns and villages speak Hungarian as their primary language, is inescapable. (Note of disclosure: the reporter of this story, Liviu Bird, has family ties to Cluj-Napoca, the capital of the region, and his mother was born there.)

On the weekend prior to Friday’s match, the Hungarian federation fined four clubs in the top two divisions for anti-Romanian chants, but officials in Bucharest still hope for a “civilized” showing from both sets of fans (see image above).

However, Hungarian fans seem to be of a different mindset. With right-wing fans at an apparent an all-time high, crowd trouble feels almost inevitable at Arena Națională in Bucharest. Hungarian ultras gathered on Thursday night to begin the long, arduous journey from Budapest to Bucharest, singing the national anthem in Keleti station before boarding their train:

And lighting flares and chanting loudly as the train left the station:

Friday’s match will be wrought with tension. Both teams desperately need a win, as both have difficult matches in the coming months to close out qualifying. But the story in the stands could overshadow it all.

  1. notaretard - Sep 6, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    eastern european teams should be required to play behind closed doors all the time. they’re a bunch of racist, nationalistic bigots. maybe after a few years of being locked out they’ll learn how to act like people and not animals

    • sorinux - Sep 7, 2013 at 3:48 AM

      Hey, ignorant bastard, your name is a hint?
      Your washed out brain does not understand not even 1% of the problems this people caused since they arrived in this area, 1000 years ago (hint: Attila). Just check the history, but not told by them, but by the people who suffered from their deeds. The horthyst army killed innocent peasants in Transylvania, not only men, but from 2-3 years old childrens to 80 years people.
      Ask the serbians why they do not get along with the hungarians, ask the slovaks also. Why should all the countries in this area suffer because of this drunk-shaved heads nazzi?
      Just check before summiting a judgment!

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