It’s been almost three months now since I moved out to Budapest and posed myself the question of which Budapest team I should follow now that I am here. Choosing a football team to follow is not a decision to be taken lightly, especially for a foreigner living in a new city.
Upon moving to Budapest my initial leanings were probably towards Ferencvaros, Hungary’s biggest and most successful team, who just so happen to wear green and white like Celtic, my team. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that this was taking the easy way out. Perhaps one of the other Budapest clubs had a more appealing history, or values I could relate to.
Ujpest came highly recommended as a welcoming family centred club, and having watched some impressive footage of their fans on YouTube I was tempted to nail my colours to their mast. Vasas also intrigued me by virtue of being the underdogs of the Budapest top-flight football fraternity; the smallest of the Budapest based clubs and least successful, yet a club with a strong working class tradition, something I can relate to.
DECIDING ON HONVED
However, it was the romance of Kispest Honved that eventually won me over. Tales of Puskas and the great pre-Revolution team, the ‘World Tour of 56’ and invitations to play in the Mexican league, the subsequent post-Revolution decline of the club and the steady rebuilding over the last decade all seemed too much to resist. Having met with Abel Lorincz, who works for Honved as a video analyst, in December of 2016, I was already acutely aware of the clubs history and following my own research I became hooked on the club.
I had also been hugely impressed with the pre match advertising I’d seen on billboards across the city and on LinkedIn, and saw Honved as a team that was trying to things a little bit differently from the Hungarian norm as they actively sought to promote the team and attract new fans. It certainly worked on me and I quickly made up my mind that I had to attend a Honved game as soon as possible.
I’d scanned the fixture list for a local derby match I could take in as my first experience of Hungarian football in the flesh but instead happened to notice that matchday 33 had the potential to be a title decider between Honved, my newly adopted Hungarian team, and Videoton from Székesfehérvár.
What better game to bust my Magyar Foci cherry?
I then spent the next few weeks watching the results come in with mixed feelings, simultaneously hoping that Honved would stretch away at the top but also wanting Videoton to remain close enough to make the final game a title showdown.
After posting my ‘My Budapest Team’ post I was contacted by @Magyar_bmb on twitter (who may or may not have had a hand in my choosing Honved to be my team, depending on whose story you chose to believe) and together we put a plan in motion along with Mr Magyar Foci, Tomasz Mortimer, and DJ GabyG to meet up and attend the game together. A plan, it must be said, that was helped in no small part by Honved ‘keeper David Groff, an ex-Hibee, who helped organise the tickets for us.
After careful planning and organising we’d agreed to meet up at a restaurant before the game along with several other people that we all knew or ‘twitter’ knew. Unfortunately, some of us (I’m looking at me here) were not so hot on our time keeping and missed the meal, not that big Gaby minded as that meant more food for him.
Our journey to the stadium was fairly straight forward and passed without incident, despite the cancellation of our tram service to the ground and spotting several armed Police officers at the Metro stations; Ferencvaros were hosting Ujpest on the same day and trouble was expected.
However, it all got a bit real as we approached the fan zone outside the stadium with Honved fans setting off flares and smoke bombs. The atmosphere was electric and you sense that there was a mix of raw emotions in the air; excitement, nerves, unwavering certainty of victory and dread of defeat. There was music blaring, fans chanting songs, and beer and palinka being drunk and spilt in equal measure as we made our way through the fan zone. It was hard not to get swept away by it all.
Being Scottish, and not having had a pint for at least an hour, my mate I decided to hang around the fan zone and soak up the atmosphere (and beer) a bit longer than the others instead of collecting our tickets straights away.
Once we eventually made it in to collect our tickets we were passed from pillar to post until eventually finding reception and our tickets. To our great excitement we discovered that in Hungary it is possible to buy alcohol inside a football stadium. Not only that, but you can take it to your seat whilst watching the game. Scottish football, are you listening?
THE GAME ITSELF
In all honesty, the game was not much of a spectacle, which, when you consider what was at stake is probably understandable.
Honved, the hosts, had not won a national title for 24 years and were playing at their Bozsik Jozsef Stadion for the last time while Videoton were looking to play the role of party poopers by coming from behind to clinch their third title of the decade.
Both sides had been evenly matched throughout the season, indeed, they went into the final match level on points. It was therefore set up to be a war of attrition and so it proved with neither side finding their true rhythm and struggling with the basics for long spells.
The fans on the other hand were on top form, each trying to outdo the other with their chants, flares and smoke bombs helping to create a really entertaining atmosphere.
After a first half of few clear cut openings the first real talking point of the match came in the 54th minute when Vidi’s Danko Lazovic pulled off an Olympic standard gymnastic floor routine as he writhed around the ground in apparent agony after being floored under minimal contact.
However the moment we’d all come to see duly arrived just five minutes later when Márton Eppel turned in a cross from George Ikenne to seal the title for Honved. Vidi tried manfully to find their way back into the game but they were met at every turn by heroic Honved defending. The final whistle was met with an eruption of ecstasy from the home fans who, after a 24 year wait, had finally seen the League title come ‘home’. Not even the news that manager Marco Rossi had quit in the aftermath of the game could dampen the spirits of the Honved fans as they celebrated in the fan zone long into the night.
I took it upon myself to join in and take heed of the words of the great Christy Moore in his song ‘Saint Patrick’s Dance in San Fernando’ as I “got drunk and had a right good time.” It’s fair to say that my first experience of Hungarian football was a positive one. However, I had a double, or should that be Treble, reason to celebrate that night as earlier in the day Celtic had defeated Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup Final to record an historic unbeaten domestic treble.
What a time to be alive.