The pride of 2016

2016 turned out to be a proud year for Hungarian football, the National Team qualified for the Euro’s for the first time since 1972. Not many believed they would progress beyond the group stage but a win v Austria & draws with Iceland and Portugal saw them not only progress but finish top of the group & advance to the knockout phase. A 4-0 defeat v Belgium in the round of 16 saw them head home, where they were rightly welcomed as heroes. Finally, an entire generation of Hungarians have their own heroes to cheer instead of “living off of the memories” of the mighty Magyars of the 50’s. Not that the great team will ever be forgotten but it’s fantastic to see Hungary putting themselves back onto the International football map. We have a success to build on now.

It’s not only our National Team who did us proud in 2016, however. Our top referees have been quietly making their mark in the International game, making history and generally just making us very proud of their achievements.

Viktor Kassai, our top male referee also went to the Euros and stayed longer than the National Team, with his final appointment being as 4th official at the final between Portugal v France. This following his 4th official appointment at the men’s Champions League final between Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid. Referees only get awarded the CL final once in their career, an honour Viktor received in 2011, so a 4th official appointment on a subsequent final is considered a big honour. Not content with a successful Champions League campaign and a successful Euros he followed this up with being the only UEFA referee representative at the Club World Cup in Japan, where he continued his run of prestigious 4th official appointments at the final there on 18th December between Real Madrid v Kashima Antlers. Whilst there he also took the opportunity to make history by making the first decision using VAR’s (video assisted refs) in an official FIFA tournament, you can read about that one here:  http://www.hungarianfootball.com/2016/12/kassai-makes-history-japan/ Then finally to top off an already incredible year he was named the IFFHS 2016 world’s 3rd best male referee! We are very proud of you Viktor!

Katalin Kulcsár, our top female referee was determined not to let the boys take all of the glory! Katalin’s success, despite already having a FIFA U-17 World Cup final in 2009 under her belt, has really been building these past 3 years starting with a quarter final in the 2013 UEFA Women’s Euro’s between Italy v Germany, appearances at the FIFA U20’s Woman’s World Cup in 2014 and a group stage appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015. Season 2015/16, her 6th consecutive season in the Champions League saw her refereeing a quarter-final first leg between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain in Spain, before being awarded the honour of refereeing the 2016 UEFA Women’s Champions League final between Wolfsburg and Olympique Lyonnais. If you have not watched the game, then please find some highlights on youtube – she was exceptionally good! This success was followed up by a semi-final appointment between Korea DPR v United States in the FIFA U20 2016 Women’s World Cup in November 2016. Her incredible year was then topped off by being named the IFFHS 2016 world’s best female referee! Add in she is the youngest to ever receive the reward and the first Hungarian to win it! Well done Katalin, we are very proud of you!

My wish for 2017 is that the dinosaurs in charge of the MLSz finally wake up & realise what a wonderfully talented referee this young lady is and promote her to the NB1. She has the ability, the talent to handle these games, she has shown that by reaching the heights that she has on the International scene. Yes, women’s football is different from the men’s game in many ways but no-one can honestly say that the standard of football played in the NB1 is of a higher standard than in the Champion’s League – women’s or not! So, come on MLSz judge her on her talent & achievements & not her sex, any other country FA would be embarrassed to only utilise the world’s official best female referee behind a goal line acting as an AAR to male colleagues that she is certainly equal to, if not better than in a few cases!

Of course, it’s not all been positive, well depending on your point of view of course! As a nation, we have lost one of our best ever Assistant Referees, Gábor Erös, to enforced retirement. Whilst FIFA have relaxed their retirement age of 45, the MLSz have not followed suite and Gábor made his final appearance in the NB1 on 12th December in the last game before the winter break between Ferencváros v MTK Budapest. His International retirement came on Thursday 24th November in a Europa League match between Athletic Club v US Sassuolo Calcio. It came a match day early so that he could bow out with his good friend Viktor Kassai by his side. See our article here: http://www.hungarianfootball.com/2016/11/end-eros-gabor-eros-retires/ Gábor has been a referee coach and mentor for Komárom-Esztergom county, a role that he will hopefully continue in. His retirement is a huge loss not only to International football but also to our domestic game, let’s hope the MLSz have the sense to utilise his incredible knowledge & experience in a beneficial way to our future referees and Assistant Referees.