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Union Berlin defend ‘private’ Orban visit

Union Berlin on Wednesday said a stadium visit from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was a “private meeting”, pushing back against fan and media criticism that they had hosted the hardline leader.

Orban visited Union’s Stadion An der Alte Foersterei on Tuesday, meeting with Hungarian midfielder Andras Schafer.

Orban shared pictures of the meeting, some of which showed him being presented with a Union shirt, widely on social media on Tuesday evening.

Union’s head of communications Christian Arbeit said the Hungarian leader had not been invited and the visit was not made in an official capacity.

“There was an official letter from the Hungarian Embassy asking for a private meeting with a Hungarian national player,” Arbeit said in Wednesday’s press conference ahead of Thursday’s home Europa League clash against Malmo.

“We complied with this request. We didn’t receive him officially.”

Arbeit said it was “not a political visit”.

While some German media sources spoke out against the Bundesliga club, some of the harshest criticism came from Union fans, who said Orban was inconsistent with the club’s values.

Union fan blog Textilvergehen said Orban should not have been allowed onto Union’s premises, arguing that his visit was inconsistent with the obligation to uphold “democratic and humanistic values” laid out in club’s founding statues.

Orban, who took power in 2010, has frequently criticised European Union refugee policies and spoke out in early 2022 against the “mixing” of European and non-European races.

Orban was in Berlin to visit German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with the two meeting on Monday.

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