Football Over Healthcare: Viktor Orban’s Passion Periling Hungarian Lives

Viktor Orban, after winning the 2018 elections, became the second longest-serving Prime Minister of Hungary. During his time in government since 2010, Hungary has gone through democratic regression and is quickly making its way towards autocracy. After his ascendency, Fidesz, his national conservative political party, shifted from its original centre-right, pro-European integration towards a core right-wing national conservatism. He has encouraged cronyism and nepotism.

He is also putting football before health.

Ever since communism ended, Hungary’s healthcare system has been awaiting life-saving reforms. Orban has super majority with absolute control over financial resources, an ideal circumstance to affect change. But the resources, time, vision and willingness is being targeted towards a different field.

Viktor Orban co-owns a football club, Puskás Akadémia FC, which bears the nickname that Real Madrid fans gave to Hungary’s greatest footballer, Ferenc Puskás. The Pancho Arena is the club’s home stadium and is barely 20 ft from Orban’s country home. Interestingly, the prime minister himself played semi-professional football for FC Felcsút.

Built in Felcsút, a Hungarian village with a couple of grocery shops, the area looks ordinary with basic facilities. However, that is only until you find that the professional soccer stadium has a heated pitch, a museum, a world-class medical clinic and a sitting capacity of 3,814 seats. The number that is double the population of the surrounding village.

In the same county is the biggest public hospital, the St. George, the infirmary that should technically, morally and ideally be as good as the prime minister’s stadium. However, on a recent night in the emergency ward, the women’s bathroom had no soap, while men’s washroom had no functioning urinals. Two doctors in the clinic struggled with the piling up of the patients, with more than a couple of dozen waiting until midnight.

Healthcare was badly managed by the previous administration, but one of the Europe’s most powerful nationalist leader has made the matters worse. Many doctors have left the nation for better job opportunities, leaving patients in lurch. The workload of each doctor that quits has to be shared and covered by those staying back because there is no replacement. Ultimately, unable to bear the burden, even the ones staying back end up leaving.

As the general public suffers, Viktor Orban has launched a program that has allowed business oligarchs to channelize at least $1.5 billion in corporate taxes directly to sports institutions. Puskás Akadémia FC has been handed over a greater piece of the pie, receiving about $83 million, as per official records.

The prime minister also uses the VIP section of the club to entertain wealthy business leaders, raising concerns over the usage of funds and corruption in sports. As a proof, Hungary’s chief prosecutor, who wields the power to decide which diplomats to investigate over corruption, is often seen with Orban at Pancho Arena.

Hungary’s heath ratings have fallen, while millions invested in football have barely made any difference to anyone. It hasn’t saved lives or improved its quality.

But Viktor Orban’s far-right idea is based on the fallacy that Hungary would only progress with advancement in sports. Sports is important, but nothing can be more important than human lives.

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