“There was an air of inevitability” when Hungarian football fans fought with police during the 1-1 draw with England at Wembley on Tuesday, says Tomasz Mortimer in The Guardian. Hungary had been sanctioned over the behaviour of fans at four of the team’s previous six games, with transgressions including homophobic banners and monkey chants. But the country’s ruling Fidesz party is “loath to criticise” extremist fans, known as “ultras” – because it’s been closely tied to them for decades.
In 2009 Fidesz leaders met with warring tribes of ultras from the country’s biggest clubs and, “in an effort to contain neo-Nazi violence”, united them to form the black-shirted Carpathian Brigade. This effort quickly soured – matches against fierce rivals Romania in 2013 and 2014 saw co-ordinated violence. And as its membership grew, the group became “a sort of safe space” for white nationalists. Now one of the most feared ultra groups on Europe’s terraces, the Carpathian Brigade has become “impossible to control” – all thanks to the Hungarian government.
A fatal race in China
On the morning of 22 May, 172 runners began the 60-mile Yellow River Stone Forest ultramarathon in northwest China. Twenty-one of them died of hypothermia, says Wenxin Fan in The Wall Street Journal. Most runners were wearing “only shorts and tank tops” when a sudden cold front from Mongolia drove temperatures down to -5C; wind gusts tore apart the foil blankets the freezing participants were huddling under. But “as deaths mounted and runners begged for help”, the organisers didn’t call off the race. They only asked the government for assistance at 3pm, when at least 18 runners had already died. Five people were later arrested.
Accountant Wen Jing, 25, and her friend, dance instructor Zhou Liting, 35, ran together for the first 15 miles, before Wen accelerated ahead. On the “torturous” five-mile, 3,000ft ascent to the third checkpoint, Zhou could “barely stand because of the wind”. She saw runners hiding behind a boulder and battling hypothermia, but pressed on. It was only at the sixth checkpoint that she was “bundled into a van”, then told the race had been stopped and some runners had died.
Zhou returned to her hotel and found “no trace” of Wen. On an online map, a GPS dot representing her friend stopped a mile before checkpoint three. Wen’s death was confirmed the next morning.
England could crash in the Ashes
“The Ashes were always going to happen,” says Michael Atherton in The Times. Despite all the “bluster, positioning and politicking” over whether the tournament could go ahead under Australia’s stringent Covid rules, anyone who follows world cricket knows that England and Australia would never leave each other in the lurch. “There is too much money at stake.” But what kind of Ashes we get is another matter. The England selectors have named a 17-man squad (including Jos Buttler, who had expressed concerns about leaving his young family at home), and 10 of them have never played an Ashes series down under.
It is “not the most inspiring-looking team”. England are missing two crucial players, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, who would have made “a huge difference”. The hope must be that Stokes, out for mental health reasons, will find it in himself to enter the fray when the series gets going in December. Archer’s absence due to a long-term elbow injury reflects “the futility of planning” – chief selector Chris Silverwood had hoped to field a team of quicks, but only one bowler in the squad, Mark Wood, can top 90mph. Instead England will be reliant on the “old firm” of Broad and Anderson.
They’ll have to hope Australia are feeling rusty after playing no Test cricket since January. For England’s captain, Joe Root, it may be a final chance to bring home cricket’s greatest prize.