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Speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the inauguration ceremony of the National Basketball Academy

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me here, and for the privilege of being here with you today. The work of government – which has little common with basketball, but rather resembles a combat sport – also has some beautiful moments, in addition to a great many conflicts and vexations. Personally, what I like best is to be present when great plans for the future are realised – primarily in the fields of culture and sport. Today, too, we are witnesses and parties to the realisation of such a great plan.

Honourable citizens of Pécs,

Today your city has taken yet another step towards becoming the capital of Hungarian basketball. There are many here who were also personally responsible for forging great successes for basketball in Pécs. I extend an especially warm welcome to them. Naturally, in the old days success did not just grow on trees either. Basketball has old traditions in this city, which has provided players for the national team; and I remember that, before the triumphal march of the nineties, the Pécs women’s team of the eighties finished near the top of the table several times.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me get to the point: if László permits me to say this, the triumphal march truly began when László Rátgéber – the daredevil of Hungarian basketball – came to Pécs from Újvidék. Dear People of Pécs, the most important conclusion I’ve drawn from my experience so far – and I’ve had the opportunity to take part in the creation of many academies in a variety of sports – is that high-quality academies can only be built around great personalities. Just think of the National Handball Academy, which is built around Lajos Mocsai. Think of the country’s best women’s handball academy, which, at the end of the day, is built around Bojana Radulović; and the Puskás Academy, which, in a technical sense, was established by György Mezey. It is no accident that the Government is now working with Katalin Kovács on the establishment of a kayak-canoe academy, and we are also close to reaching an agreement with Katinka Hosszú, so that she can also establish a major academy.

Earlier I was listening to your coach and president. László, if you will allow me, I’d like to embark on a brief digression related to what you said, and the film we’ve just seen. In Hungarian public life in general, but particularly in Hungarian sport – and sports management even more so – there is a kind of obligatory false modesty. Whenever there is success and we achieve something great, and great personalities emerge, we are expected to act as if we were less than what we really are: both with regard to the achievement and ourselves, there is a kind of denial of greatness, pride and success, and a kind of mandatory mock modesty. In my view, this is a problem that we should somehow relieve ourselves of. The truth is that false modesty makes it difficult to be successful and great in sport. It is also true, of course, that it is a big problem if one is excessively proud for little or no reason. But there is at least as much of a problem if we are successful, but self-effacing. We must not only own up to our failures, Ladies and Gentlemen, but also to our achievements – or we will never become a great nation. If there is something and someone to be proud of, we should be. I salute László Rátgéber!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The rest is now sporting history: sell-out title matches; legendary battles; consecutive Hungarian championship titles and cup victories; three Final Fours and two bronze medals in the EuroLeague.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all know that László Rátgéber, with whom we jointly conspired to realise this academy, always works at top speed. From him I learnt – perhaps he once told me this verbatim – that success is not an armchair that one can lounge in at one’s leisure. How true: in sport one must prove oneself again and again, every weekend – but perhaps even in every training session. I’m also familiar with the saying that he’s just called our attention to: you are either a player or a plaything. Perhaps he meant this in the context of sport, but if you will allow me, I will say that this is true not only in sport, but also in a wider sense. One can hold one’s head high in defeat, but we must never become our opponent’s plaything: we must never be humiliated. Even when we lose, we must lose with our heads held high.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we look at you, Young People, on the court we fans want to see players, not playthings – particularly not Hungarian playthings. We don’t want to see celebrities on the court, but heroes: heroes who will propel Hungarian women’s and men’s basketball to new heights. This is the purpose of this academy, and this is what I shook hands with László Rátgéber on: to build a centre of excellence, as he put it. I was not at all surprised a few years ago, when the plan for the construction of the academy was presented to the Government, and we saw a complete and fully developed concept, with all we had to do in the Government being to give it the go ahead. And, of course, raise the money – and in 2014 this did not seem to be a walk in the park. For reasons that I find difficult to grasp, we had some difficulty reaching the stage of laying the foundation stone, but we got to that point eventually, eighteen months ago, and having made good progress on schedule, today we are inaugurating this academy. I believe that Hungarians coming here from any corner of the country, and also from beyond the borders, can all be proud of what we find here – the whole of Hungary can be proud.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to also mention that great things are happening in basketball, and not only in Pécs. Facilities have also been built in Mosonmagyaróvár, Székesfehérvár, Oroszlány, Pannonhalma, Budapest and Nyíregyháza. Not only in your sport, but also in football, it is increasingly fashionable to refer to every relatively substantial organisation as an academy. But those of us who know our own sport from the inside are well aware that there fewer academies than those which call themselves that. There are few truly high-quality academies in each sport. But travelling around the country as I do, I can confidently say that the choice of name I read here – National Basketball Academy – is justified, as in basketball one cannot find anything like this anywhere else in the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This top-flight basketball institution was built to a budget of more than 3.1 billion forints, and inaugurating it now we’re not only thinking of youth training – although that is also important – but also of international tournaments: this complex can also enable your city to host international tournaments. I see that leaders of the city’s university are also here. As far as I know, there are ongoing negotiations, about which I am happy. I would like to encourage you, Honourable University Leaders, as I’m convinced that both the city and the university need you to sooner or later enter into agreements with the sports clubs operating here – and in particular with the basketball academy – so that students – especially graduates – can continue their studies in the University of Pécs scholarship programmes. And I encourage this not only here in Pécs, but almost everywhere. Sport, intelligent young people with ability and character should be connected to higher education in the same way as has been the case for a long time in larger countries a few steps ahead of us. It is important for us that our talented athletes stay at home. To this end, we need agreements with universities, and it is important that we no longer have to hear people say – luckily we hear this less and less – things like: “I have to go abroad to continue my sporting career, because over there they have conditions which don’t exist here.” This is why people go to America, say, on scholarships. I don’t think that going to America on a scholarship is a bad idea. There’s nothing wrong with seeing the world. One can learn interesting things over there as well. But don’t go to America on a scholarship because the conditions needed for your sport don’t exist here. Let the conditions exist here; those who want to go can go, and those who want to come back should have somewhere to come back to. This is why I’m urging for an agreement like this to be signed by the university and the academy as soon as possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Young People,

If I’m not mistaken, here the conditions exist to enable you to improve every day. From now on there can be no excuse, because everything depends on you alone. From now on all we can do is root for you – which I promise we will do, so that the nation can be proud of you as successful and recognised athletes. I come from a sport in which we move the ball around with our feet, but I also pay attention to statements made by basketball’s clever representatives. And I remember that when I was young there was a big star in the United States called Michael Jordan, and he had an important piece of advice which back then also became popular among devotees of other sports. I now ask you to take his advice to heart, remember it, and use it well in your lives. This is that good American’s pearl of wisdom: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Thank you for your attention. I hereby inaugurate this basketball academy, the National Basketball Academy.