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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s welcome address at the 40th UEFA Congress

May I just welcome you heartily to Budapest. Being current prime minister, please allow me to speak in my native language, Hungarian. In that way you can enjoy the wonderful music of the Hungarian language, which is not spoken by anybody else besides us.

Presidents, Guests, Vice-President Villar, President Infantino,

Due to official engagements I cannot be with you tomorrow, and therefore I must request your attention for a few minutes this evening. It is an honour for Hungary to host the 40th Congress of UEFA in Budapest – you could not have found a better place. We are a country in which talking about football – and about Hungarian football in particular – is as natural as breathing. Over here there are two things which everyone is an expert on, and one of them is football. The other is politics, but I would rather not talk about that now. Hungary is an old-fashioned country, and friendship is a point of honour. This is why from here I would like to send a message of greeting to Mr. Michel Platini, who has always been a great friend of Hungary and the Hungarian Football Association. We wish him the best of luck.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You have come to a country which has a worldwide community of only 15 million, which accounts for a mere 0.2 per cent of the world’s population. Football teaches us that small numbers are no reason for low self-respect. The most wonderful thing about our sport is that if you persevere and have some genius of spirit, you can reach international heights and conquer the world. What decides the result of a match is not the percentage of ball possession, but the number of goals scored. It is therefore no surprise that we Hungarians also tend to play more for goals in politics, the economy, science and the world of sport. We cannot dominate the world, we are too small for that, but with a moment of bravura victory can be ours.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From time to time a nation of this size must take careful stock of what it has given the world. We keep a record of our results and achievements, and appreciate those who have been instrumental in them. These achievements include the ballpoint pen, the espresso machine – I apologise to the Italians, but this is the truth – and indeed the Rubik’s Cube. We feel that, but for this rich history of scientific, cultural and sports achievement, perhaps the world would not even need the Hungarians. With each of our achievements, with each of our inventions, we seek to prove to the world and to ourselves that we Hungarians really do deserve a place on the pitch. This is why we produce such outstanding results in the world’s sporting events.

Dear Guests,

Over the course of the history of the Summer Olympics we have won 168 gold medals, which puts us in eighth place on the aggregated medals table. We have won the Olympic gold medal in football three times. We have been runners up in two World Cup finals, the second of these remembered by us to this day as a blow to the nation. This is no exaggeration. The golden age of Hungarian football was, however, followed by an era of silver and bronze medals. And finally, after 1986, when we last qualified to for the World Cup finals, we sank into complete despair. An era of wild capitalism ensued, shopping malls were built on the sites of football grounds, state support was withdrawn, infrastructure fell into a state of disrepair, and the supply of young talent fell to a bare minimum. Today, however, we are living in different times: there is unprecedented unity in Hungary in making sports and football thrive again. We have achieved some surprising results. Sport is a strategic sector – it has clear financial backing and clear vision. There is mandatory daily physical education in schools for pupils from the age of six to eighteen. Over the past five years we have created 586 new sports grounds, and swimming pools, sports complexes, shooting ranges and fencing centres are being built. In five years the number of registered athletes in the five most popular team sports has doubled. The Puskás Ferenc Stadium is being rebuilt, and Hungarian clubs with great historical traditions now play in stadia where they can welcome even Europe’s best teams with pride.

Honourable President,

I would like to confirm that Hungary is doing its homework, and will be a worthy host of the three group stage matches and one round of sixteen match in the UEFA European Football Championship in 2020. It is a great success for us that, after 44 years, the Hungarian team will be there at the European Football Championship once again. It is as time-honoured and true in Hungary as anywhere: you reap what you sow.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, allow me to thank you once again for coming to Budapest, and I hope that you all will feel at home in Hungary, in the land of Ferenc Puskás. Welcome to Hungary, and enjoy your dinner!