Ukrainian flag confiscated from Lithuanian fans at a basketball match in Szombathely
August 30. 2022. – 09:37 AM
On 24 August, the Hungarian men’s basketball team welcomed Lithuania’s national team for a World Championships qualifying match at the Arena Savaria sports hall in Szombathely. As RTL.hu reports, Hungary lost 88-78, but a smaller incident – that might qualify as a diplomatic one – also occured at the event. Ukrinform described the incident on Monday and posed the question:
“Who forbids displaying a Ukrainian flag in Hungary?”
According to the report, a large group of Lithuanian fans also arrived for the match to cheer on their athletes. Several Lithuanian OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) diplomats were also present, as well as their friends and family members (including children).
Since August 24th happens to be Ukraine’s Independence Day, other than their own country’s flag, the Lithuanian fans were planning on unfurling Ukraine’s flag in the stands as well. They wanted to do this as an expression of their solidarity with Ukraine which has been fighting a defensive war against Russia. However, the security services of the Arena Savaria sports hall did not allow the gesture to be carried out.
According to Ukrinform,
as soon as one of the Lithuanian fans unfolded a blue-yellow flag in the stand, a security guard approached him and told him to put the flag away, as cheering is only allowed with Hungarian or Lithuanian flags.
The man, who had come with his children, did not understand the reasoning, but as he did not wish to enter into an argument, he folded up the flag and placed it next to him. This, however, did not satisfy the security services. Within a few minutes, three security guards approached the man and they confiscated the Ukrainian national symbol.
At the end of the match the flag was returned to the fan – Ukrinform reports based on the man’s report. OSCE’s Lithuanian diplomats also mentioned the incident on their official Twitter page, expressing that it was not clear why the security services did not permit displaying the Ukrainian flag:
According to the newspaper, the sport's international governing body has no prohibitive rules restricting the display of other national flags in the stands. The World Cup qualifying tournament was organised under the auspices of the International Basketball Federation by the National Association of Hungarian Basketball Players (NAHBP) in the Arena Savaria, which is owned by SZOVA Nonprofit Zrt. and operated by the Szombathely Sports Centre.
Because of the above, RTL.hu has sent questions about the incident to the NAHBP, as well as the relevant authorities of the sports hall and the company providing security service for the event, but they have not received a response until the publication of our article.
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The translation of this article was made possible by our cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation.