The Prime Minister was participating in the official opening ceremony for the National Basketball Academy in Pécs.
In his speech he highlighted that in Hungarian public life and in sports leadership there is “a kind of obligatory false modesty”, and “when we succeed, we are expected to act as if we were less than what we really are”. He identified this as a problem, because if there is something and someone to be proud of, then we truly should be proud.
According to Mr. Orbán, there are few high-quality academies for each sport, but naming this one the National Basketball Academy is justified: for basketball, there is nowhere quite like it anywhere else in the country.
He said that the work of government “involves a great many conflicts and problems, but it also offers some beautiful moments”, and this was one of those beautiful moments: the privilege of attending the inauguration of ambitious plans for the future. He described the event is one of these, and stated that Pécs has taken another step towards becoming the capital of Hungarian basketball.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Pécs also has a past tradition of basketball, but the “triumphal march” truly began when László Rátgéber – the “daredevil” of Hungarian basketball – came to the city. He noted that high-quality academies can only be built around great personalities.
In this vein he observed that work has begun with kayaker Katalin Kovács, and that there is the imminent prospect of an agreement with swimmer Katinka Hosszú.
Mr. Orbán quoted László Rátgéber, who once said that “you are either a player or a plaything”. He added that this is not only true in sport: one can hold one’s head high in defeat, “but we must never become our opponent’s plaything: we must never be humiliated”.
He highlighted that “on the court we fans want to see players, not playthings”: heroes who “will propel Hungarian basketball to new heights”.
The Prime Minister said when the plan for the academy was presented to the Government a few years ago, it was a final and fully developed concept, which only needed permission and funding. He said that there had been difficulties in proceeding towards laying the foundation stone, but eighteen months later the academy can now be inaugurated, and “the whole of Hungary can be proud of it”. He added that, in addition to youth training, the academy is also a suitable venue for international tournaments.
Mr. Orbán also said that sooner or later the University of Pécs will have to enter into agreements with athletes so that students can continue their studies as part of the university’s scholarship programmes. He stressed the importance of talented young athletes being able to stay in their home country, and “not to have to go to the United States for scholarship programmes” for want of suitable conditions in Hungary.
In his address, László Rátgéber, the academy’s technical and strategic director, stressed that the event was a milestone and an enormous opportunity for the academy to become a cornerstone of Hungarian basketball, setting an example in terms of professionalism and youth training. The goal, he pointed out, is to train players of international standing, and therefore the academy is not only a matter of local significance for Pécs, but also of national significance.
He described it is no coincidence that the academy was built in Pécs, as that is where he spent the most successful years of his coaching career, the greatest achievements of which was the basketball team’s ability to serve as role models, create social capital and make a significant impact on society. The idea of the academy sprang from this social impact, he explained.
Mr. Rátgéber thanked the Government, the Prime Minister, the City of Pécs and the University of Pécs for their support.
The foundation stone of the National Basketball Academy was laid last April. The academy was built on the site of a former sewage treatment plant, and features a basketball complex with three courts, a permanent stand for 400 spectators, and a demountable stand with seating for an additional 1,500. In addition to service areas, there is an accommodation block for sixty people, offices and presentation rooms.
The new building complex is suitable for training top-flight basketball players, and for preparing young people for sports careers in Hungary and abroad.