The day a Hungarian amateur football match had more English supporters than Hungarians!

Not many people decided to show up for a match between BAK Respect and MTK Baráti Kör this Saturday. The match was in the 6th tier of Hungarian football and on a rainy, cold day, only a handful of people were willing to freeze in the stands. Those who did though were unusual spectators: half of them were journalists and the other half of them fans from London. The home team had invited two guests for this match specifically. One of them wrote the book which led to this Saturday’s match, and the other one represented Corinthian Casuals, a side BAK played over 70 years ago.

The fixture itself was special. The away side was created by MTK fans to play football on a weekly basis. However, BAK was founded in 1900 by athletes leaving MTK in order to play football, since the club prohibited it back then. The amateur club had a number of fantastic years until the professional MTK team came about prompting the downfall of BAK. In the end, the club were disbanded in 1947, until now…

In 2018, Bertalan Molnár decided to re-create the once glorious club, which has started its’ journey in the 6th tier of Hungarian football.

That is all well, but when will the English spectators come into the picture? Now. The club would not have been re-created if there wasn’t a book written about Ernő Egri Erbstein. A footballer, who had to flee from the country and ended up coaching Torino FC in Italy. His reign made it into Serie A’s history as he led his side to three scudettos, between 1947 and 1949. Erbstein’s adventurous life and spectacular career caught Dominic Bliss’ interest immediately, which then resulted in a book. That was the book Mr Molnár read, and which inspired him to found BAK again.

– Dominic, who is one of the foreigners in the stands, explains.

“I was researching about Grande Torino when I came across Erbstein. After a few stories I felt that I have to write an article about him. The more information I got, the longer it became until I realised: this could be an entire book. I was lucky too, I got in contact with a guy, who lives in the United States and has a lot of newspapers from that time period in a digital form. These gave me a lot of information too”

I got to know a guy who is really into football, every sentence of his shouts that he is a football fanatic – but what else could you expect from a British man, who writes about football?! Though he has great knowledge of the game, Hungary could still surprise him.

There’s a tradition in Hungary for the matches. Every game starts with the teams walking onto the pitch alongside the referee. Each team greet the spectators with a wave and shouting their team’s acronym or name. This is a normal sight to us, but when the home eleven goes “one, two, three, BAK!” Dominic turns to me.

  • What was that about?
  • They greeted the spectators who came here.
  • Do they do this at every game?

And we are off to a great conversation, starting to discuss the huge difference between the 6th tier of football in Hungary and England, the home team scores the opener, in the 3rd minute. Fans are cheering and BAK keeps up the pressure. They are determined to impress the guests. A few minutes later Dominic turns to me again.

“Wait, that man plays in sweatpants! I’ve never seen this in a football match before! Is that allowed?” – he points at the man from MTK Baráti Kör. Little does he know that it’s Zoltán Kenesei, who played for the top level MTK team previously, until he got into a match fixing scandal. Playing in sweatpants is allowed by the way, as long as it doesn’t affect the opposition when they battle with him for the ball.

In the meantime, BAK is unstoppable. Krisztián Jenei scored from the centre circle. He is the one to watch, only six days before this match, he played in the Homeless World Cup, winning a bronze medal for Hungary. The home team is sharp, they create chances left and right, Kenesei’s consolation goal is the only thing the opposition can be happy about. The first half ends with a pity penalty, making it 5-2 at the break.

The visitors seem to enjoy the show. However, Dominic has a lot more journalists waiting for him and so I look for another chat partner. Soon enough I stand next to John Forrest, the community manager for Corinthian Casuals. This team is an amateur side which play in a league, full of semi-professionals, the Isthmian Bostik League. That’s in the 7th tier in English football.

The club was created by the merge of Corinthian FC and Casuals FC in 1939 and it has been an amateur team forever. They were there to start football as a movement, even gave players for the English national eleven in the early days. It’s a club of rich history with records like

  • beating Manchester United 11-3, the biggest margin of the Red Devils’ history
  • Real Madrid plays in full white in honour of them
  • purposefully not saving penalties, since a gentleman doesn’t foul their opposition.

Most importantly though, Corinthian Casuals played against BAK over 70 years ago. The Hungarians won, and they received an honorary trophy, called the Corinthian Cup. The trophy itself was thought to be missing, however John and Dominic both told me they saw it in Magyar Olimpiai és Sportmúzem (the sportmuseum of olympics). There is allegedly a copy as well in Salgótarján.

“When we first received an e-mail from BAK, I knew we want to keep the contact and rekindle our friendship. Our goal is to promote the amateur spirit and we would like to help the Hungarians to grow. We had a lovely dinner with the team and we would love to resurrect the Corinthian Cup in Hungary” – says John very enthusiastically.

In the meantime, a truly, magical turnaround happens on the pitch. MTK Baráti Kör equalised in the 76th minute, even though Tibor Popovics can barely walk due to injury. The away side doesn’t have substitutes at all, so he soldiers on through the entire game. Spectacular scenes and it has to be said, they earned that equaliser fair and square. The visitors are in shock. How could this happen?

BAK doesn’t want to be a bad host though, reinforcing themselves they bagged three more – the last one is another beauty from Jenei: this time he scores from his own half. The whistle blows and the result is 8-5 at full time.

“What a game! That fullback, number 18 put in an absolute shift. He is one of the best on the pitch” – claps John while the home team moves closer to high five the visitors who travelled from London just for this humble game.

The Hungarian trip was a success, the two sides shared gifts too, mostly shirts and scarfs of their colour. The match itself is over and after a nice chat about amateur football with John I let the sides bond more. There is more to come, no doubt about that. And the end goal is spectacular as well: the rebirth of the Corinthian Cup.

Article by Aranyossy Áron

The original article in Hungarian can be found at the following link, this is purely an English translation of the article and all credit remains with the original author: