• Official language: Hungarian
  • Interesting facts: Uralic family (not Indo-European), features 20 cases and a four-tiered system for expressing politeness

The internet giveth, and the internet taketh away. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Hungarian language of football.

The Facebook group TrollFoci (Troll Football) carries a lot of clout in Hungary, and used to give the national team all manner of grief. This was reflective of wider attitudes in Hungary, where people saw the players as being vain, foolish and entirely unwarranted in their own self-opinion.

With the brief appointment of the popular Pál Dárdai as manager,  TrollFoci became part of a change in rhetoric and a softening of opinion. After decades of separation, the divide between players and fans is gradually being bridged and while social media isn’t the only reason for this, it has played its part.

But the internet is also a cruel, cruel bastard, ready to round on a man and make a monkey of him before his knees have hit the floor. So pity Szilárd Devecseri, who scored this own goal in a record 8-1 defeat to the Netherlands in 2013. Devecseri’s slumping moment of despair quickly became a meme in Hungary, and gave the language a new piece of vocabulary in devecsering.

What the Hungarian language is like

Hungarian is a member of the Uralic family. Finnish and Estonian belong to this same family, but Hungarian’s closest relatives – Khanty and Mansi, minority languages of Russia – are spoken 2,000 miles away. Because of this it can look unfamiliar to European eyes and this, along with its complex grammar, gives it a reputation for being a tricky one to learn (although this can easily be disputed).

Choice phrases

A striker who struggles to score is “vaccinated against goalscoring” (be van oltva góllövés ellen), while a goalkeeper who makes a howler is a “butterfly hunter” (lepkevadász), presumably as a visual reference to all the impotent leaping and flapping involved in both.  Another one which summons up nice imagery is the Hungarian word for a nutmeg, which is an “apron” (kötény).

Matches which are thought to have been fixed are called bundameccs, or bunda for short. A bunda is a fur coat, and the use here comes from the expression bunda alatt intéz, meaning to do things under a fur coat, or more figuratively, in secret.

Hungarian likes a signature move (and so do we). A goal scored from a very narrow angle is scored from the Sándor-szög (Sándor-angle), after MTK right winger and one club man Károly Sándor.

Commentator chat

Jenő Knézy was a beloved figure, and gave Hungary the catchphrase “Jó estét, jó szurkolást”, which translates as something like “Good evening and good cheering”. This is used beyond football, and is lovely.

Songs they sing

You won’t go far with fans of the Magyar without hearing Ria Ria Hungária. Also popular is Nélküled (Without You) which is full of nature metaphors and talks about the hardships of living as displaced minority, culminating in the chorus of “we are from the same blood” (mi egy vérből valók vagyunk). The song is tied to football through its use by fans of FC DAC, a club based in the town of Dunaszerdahely which is now part of Slovakia, although 75% of its inhabitants are Hungarian.

Rivals

There’s Slovakia and, after 150 years of conflict and territorial dispute there’s not much loved lost with Romania. The Romanians are known in Hungary as bocskorosreferring to a type of sandal worn mostly by Romanian peasants.


With thanks to Gulyas Fanni at Tudomány Language School, Dudas Gabor at Csak Foci, Zsuzsanna Ujhelyi and Karesz Cserfalvi.