Written by Tomasz Mortimer
After three years away it was good to be back in Budapest. I arrived on Friday, at about 1pm, expecting glorious sunshine and 30 degree temperatures. Nope, nothing like that at all. Instead it was just like a typical English summer’s day. Dull, grey and about 15 degrees and it wasn’t to get better over the weekend.
After dropping my bag off at the hotel, the first thing I had to do was to go Ferencváros’ ground (Florian Albert Stadion) and register myself as a Fradi fan – not something I wanted to do out of choice I tell you now. In Hungary, one of the biggest clubs in the country – Ferencváros – have put new measures in place to combat hooliganism and you now have to register your personal details to be able to buy a ticket. It’s no issue really. Only takes 5 minutes and if it’s to stop violence inside/outside the ground then I’m all for it.
After picking up my ‘Fradi Card’ I’d lost track of time, and it was nearly 6pm – almost time for ZTE vs Debrecen (on the TV)! I quickly found the closest bar with the game on and settled down with a beer and goulash soup to watch Debrecen win 2-0 and stay top of the league.
The next day I was to play in a football tournament at Vasas SC’s ground. I’d never played football in Hungary before and I was interested to see how it would differ to English 5 a side. I was in goal – of course – but from watching the game it seemed to me that the teams didn’t really defend properly, and with the Hungarian National Team problem’s all lying in defence, I think you can link the two. Down to the coaching? Probably.
There were 16 teams in the tournament, so begin with we had to advance through the group of 4 to get to the quarters. Things got off to an alright start. We drew 1-1 but we were dominated for large parts (of the half an hour game) and were lucky to escape with a point. Next up we lost 2-0. Less said abo
ut that the better which left with a must win game to cap off the group. The team raised their game and we triumphed 2-1 thanks to two first half goals. The quarter finals beckoned and the dream of becoming champions lived on.
We were up against a group of Slovakians in the next round, and you would have mistaken them for the National Team. They were absolutely immense (and they were cheats)! We were 4-1 down at half-time and they also missed a penalty. The game ended 6-1, but in the second half no-one was really bothered about our game we were watching this mass brawl on the other pitch. Hungarian 5 a side is taken very seriously, and there are a lot of squabbles on the pitch, but this had gone too far. Punches were thrown, people were pushing and squaring up to the ref, and about 15 people were involved. Madness and embarrassing.
The tournament didn’t end well for us, but at least there was a bit of entertainment to end with – and just 4 hours later I was back at Vasas to watch them play vs Pecs.
The game kicked off at 6.30, but I’d thought it kicked off at 5.30 so we were there an hour and a half before the game before even the most loyal of fans. So I sat down and saw: the players inspecting the pitch, the film crew set the cameras up, the PA system set up, the wires set out, the players warm up – all with a couple of beers and sunflower seeds in hand.
There weren’t many there to be honest in the end to be honest, but with a rundown ground an average team to watch, you don’t expect many to go. 1,000 at a push I’m guessing with about 100 making the journey from Pecs. The Pecs fans were quite loud actually, calling themselves the “White Men” and “The Pecs Ultras”. It was a nice friendly atmosphere, pretty warm and the game was excellent too.
I was favouring the home side because I was with their fans so I was quite disappointed when they lost 2-1. (You can read more of the game here)
Later on that night I watched Gyor beat Újpest 1-0 on Sport 1 in a restaurant which was followed by the Vasas highlights, and I just couldn’t wait for the next day.
On the Sunday, I was off to the Stadion Albert again. This time it was for the game between Ferencváros and DVTK. Both fans are known to be loud and generate a great atmosphere so I couldn’t wait to get there.
This time I arrived an hour before kickoff, but because we had to wait for the DVTK to be escorted by the police through the ground, we weren’t allowed in till half an hour before. (The police presence was massive as I expected it to be with Police dogs, riot gear and guns all on show.)
After finally getting into the ground we took our seats and I saw – by bizarre coincidence – that the same man who was in front of me at Vasas the day before, was sat behind me at Ferencváros (in designated seats).
The game eventually kicked off, and the two sets of fans were silent. I was confused and quite annoyed. I was expecting both fans to be going mental, with flares, clapping and jumping, but nope not a word. The weather was horrible too, so I wasn’t happy.
Liban Abdi then scored to make it 1-0 to Fradi after just 4 minutes, but after the fans celebrated it was back to a library. Eventually, after 10 minutes, the fans sprung to life and it was like I expected it – a carnival atmosphere with choreographed jumping, clapping, singing and all that jazz, from both sets of fans. I was relieved to say the least. (I soon learnt after the game that it was because they were protesting against the new Police laws tackling hooliganism. More here)
The game was frantic and a great advert for NBI football, but not many chances were created for either side. DVTK were down to 10 men just before half-time and the game looked as good as over, but they didn’t die down, and you couldn’t tell that Fradi had a man extra. Then with 20 minutes left Luque scored an incredible free kick to make it 1-1, and even though DVTK had another man sent off with 5 minutes left, Fradi couldn’t get a winner. A great result for DVTK who’s fans went mental, but awful for Fradi. (Highlights here)
Escaping the ground wasn’t too much of an issue but escaping the rain bloody was. Didn’t stop all day and by the time I got back to the hotel I was as blue as a ZTE away shirt.
Monday was my last full day, and I had to make it worthwhile. So for the whole day I searched far and wide for a Haladás shirt. No success whatsoever. If you go into a sports shop in England you expect to see at least 5 different football shirts, but in Hungary you expect to see none. It was madness. I think I walked 10 miles (no exaggeration) but had no luck whatsoever. In the end I wasn’t even being picky. I would have taken anything. I was even thinking of going to go the Stadion Albert again to get a Fradi one, but I thought there’s bound to be a place round here that sells them. So what did I do? I resorted to Twitter and thanks to @DJGabyG and @ilgreb I picked up an MTK shirt. Worth 10 miles of walking? Yeah, probably.
So in the end it was a good weekend in Budapest and hopefully I’ll be back sooner rather than later, but for now I have to be content with watching the NBI games on the internet and an MTK shirt instead of a Haladás one…