A member of the staff of Hertha Berlin, Zsolt Petry was fired in recent days for remarks deemed homophobic and xenophobic. Faced with this dismissal, Hungary denounced an “obstacle to freedom of expression” and summoned a representative of the German embassy in Budapest.
Hungary summoned a representative of the German embassy in Budapest on Thursday, denouncing a “restriction on freedom of expression” after a Bundesliga club sacked its Hungarian goalkeeper coach for comments deemed homophobic and xenophobic .
Hertha Berlin fired Zsolt Petry
“Germany, like Hungary, has directly experienced terror against those who expressed their opinion throughout its history, so preserving the fundamental rights to freedom of expression is our common moral duty,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a press release.
Several senior officials had previously protested against Zsolt Petry’s dismissal by Hertha Berlin, where he was in charge of the Under-17 goalkeepers after training those of the first team (2015-2019).
Gergely Gulyas, head of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office, described the decision as “scandalous”, referring to Germany’s “totalitarian” past. “We would not want this to happen again in the 21st century,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Germany must answer the question of whether or not it is still a country governed by the rule of law”, he continued, even though Hungary is regularly accused by various international organizations and NGOs to violate rights.
“We very clearly reject allusions to Nazism”
The German Foreign Ministry has protested against references to Germany’s Nazi past and said it “absolutely did not understand” the comments of Hungarian officials. “We very clearly reject allusions to Nazism,” said a spokesperson for the ministry in a statement sent to AFP.
Zsolt Petry, 54, criticized the reception of migrants in Europe, in an interview published Monday by the pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet. “Europe is a Christian continent, I don’t appreciate watching the continent’s moral decline,” he said. He also attacked his compatriot Peter Gulacsi, goalkeeper of RB Leipzig, who took a stand in favor of same-sex marriage.
This message from Gulacsi sparked a heated debate in Hungary and the footballer drew criticism from supporters of Viktor Orban. The sovereignist leader wants to make this EU member country a bastion of traditional Christian values against liberal ideologies.
Responding to criticism, Petry issued an update in which he claimed to be “neither homophobic nor xenophobic” and offered his “apologies”. But the Berlin club decided to do without his services, believing that his public remarks went against the club’s values of diversity and tolerance.