The new places just keep on rolling on. Budapest had always been a sort after destination for me for a weekend of football, and this season with six teams in the top flight it just had to be done – the question was always going to be getting the right weekend for more than one game. CMF was unmoved by this trip, although I am sure she was confusing it with Bucharest, but the ever reliable Football Jo volunteered to be my travel companion. Football Jo, for those who don’t know her is a unique character. Female, single, well off, own house and teeth, with a keen interest in porn involving clothes pegs and whisks but above all very knowledgeable about football. I have known her for nearly a decade, and have travelled to such places as Berlin, Palermo, Nurnberg, Munich and Lisbon with her. Each trip is always characterised with bickering, drinking and her disappearing off to find the latest in European S & M DVD’s which then leads her to looking at all manner of men in authority in a strange way.
Anyway I digress. The weekend in question threw up four home games over the two days – an absolute bonanza of a weekend. Unfortunately, as with most plans of football, television got in the way, and matches started to be moved. Saturday’s games became a Friday night and a Monday evening game, although at least two games – MTK the current champions and REAC the newly promoted team still had games. Less than a week before the trip the Hungarian FA announced that REAC’s opponents that gone bust and all games would be awarded 3-0 to the opposition meaning my 4 game weekend had been reduced to 1. Still it was an opportunity to watch the league champions, and current pace setters MTK, as well as an opportunity to visit a few more grounds all in the cause of research.
After a ridiculously early start, and a 6.30am flight from London Luton (which technically is 2 counties outside London and is as far removed as Swindon in those terms) we landed on time in the sunny Hungarian capital. First impressions were good – smart new airport, good signs pointing the way, and the odd almost model-esque local. Having started watching Hostel 2 on the plane, I had some trepidation boarding the train from the airport when it arrived, especially when I took one look at the locals on board. Simple course of action – don’t open mouth, refrain from pulling out phone/camera/IPOD and on no account get out a map. Simple course of action……So when Football Jo leans over my seat because, quote “The bloke behind smells” and asks to a) look at where the hotel is on the map, and b) check the weather on my phone our cover is blown. So we revert to tourist mode and look at the fantastic views of factories, car breaker yards and rubbish dumps out of the window as we pass through the suburbs of Pest.
We alighted from the train at the central station – which goes by the memorable name Nguyati Palyaudvar and walk through the station which seemed it hadn’t changed much since the Orient Express used to pass through in its way to Istanbul. Beautiful wooden panelled waiting rooms, antiquated signage, beggars, and piles of rubbish (can you see a theme here?). It did have the fantastic Club Cool which at 10.30am on a Saturday morning was still open, complete with scary looking bouncer outside. Our hotel was in one of the side streets close to the historic Oktagon area of Pest, on the right bank of the Danube. As with most of my reservations I some how end up close to strip club/XXX cinema or both and in this instance my radar was not off course. The Queens Hotel and Residence turned out to be a brand new serviced apartment block, with our “Gold” suites having a dining room, kitchen and bed room in one of those moments where you have to go out of the room just to check that you have the right numbered room! Amazing value for less than €100 per night and for one minute I was even tempted to start sending out invites for a candlelight supper later in the day.
But we had no time for idling – we were off to the home of Ferencvaros, the most feared and famous club in the whole of Hungary to watch a match….Well confession time here. When I saw the fixtures initially I was disappointed that the mighty Green and Whites were actually playing away. In 2006 the club were relegated after being embroiled in a finance scandal that threatened to topple the whole government. They have still yet to recover and so their profile is not as high in the country as it was – and so seeing a game kicking off at 12pm I made an assumption that it would be a reserve or youth team game.
Still, our first trip on the metro passed without incident, although it was very noticable that they take security very seriously here as instead of ticket barriers they had big men with bigger dogs who checked everyone in and out as well as every bag. Outside of the station at Nepligat we found a market, or so we thought. What it actually was was the local homeless people conducting a boot sales of all of their possessions. I could see that Football Jo was tempted by the strangely yellow tennis shorts and the single slipper but I did manage to lure her away with the promise that she could go to Zara later.
The Stadion Albert Florian to give it its proper name (the Ulloi Ut is the other) is a strange ground. It is located on the corner of two of the main roads in the city, and the raised highway heading south of Ulloi Ut actually gives drives an excellent view into the stadium. It is bedecked in green and white benches, with some executive boxes bolted on the top of one of the stands. At the north end of the stadium there is a statue of someone (we guessed it was Albert Florian) and behind this was obviously the VIP seats behind the glass. It was here in 2005 that Millwall fans suffered the kind of beating that they themselves have been used to dishing out for years, and is now actually in the hands of Kevin McCabe the Sheffield United Chairman whose Esplanade company purchased the club and stadium in March this year.
We were still on the pretenses of finding a way in to watch this “game” of football. As with many stadiums in eastern Europe, if you walk around and try enough doors eventually one will be opened. In this case I did not expect the one that said “entrance” to be open. Walking through the portal and straight out of the tunnel onto the pitch we had walked into a full blown 1st team training session. On seeing a couple of bag toating tourists the whole squad stopped and stared at us. I did what any respecting person would do when walking into a strange place, and obviously not supposed to be there – I took out my note book and started writing notes. “Act as if we are scouts, and we will get away with this”….sure enough within 10 seconds they had returned to their squat thrusts, star jumps and hopeless free-kicks from 30 yards. Judging by the state of repair of the stadium it was hard not to see why the club had been plunged into such financial chaos. Everywhere was overdue a lick of paint, the roof of the one and only covered area had huge holes in, and the pitch was worse than my back garden to say the least.
We stayed for all of 5 minutes, getting up with an obvious shake of the head as if to say “you’re shit and you know you are” and headed out the way we came. As we left the car park we could see the womens game in full flow so we wandered over for a look. What was amazing was that all 22 players had pony tales – is this some unwritten rule in Hungarian female football? Had we stumbled upon some secret society? We watched for 10 minutes and a few things struck me about the game in general:-
1) When any of them kicked the ball over distance they made a grunting sound;
2) When one team scored, everyone clapped – including some of the opposition;
3) whenever they ran with the ball they did so with their arms outstretched like some strange airplane impressionists;
So, overcome with excitement of this top of the table game we headed off back into the city for a quick peak at the national stadium – conveniently located next to Stadionok metro station – I love the way that they find these plots of land next to stations named after stadiums! Anyway, 3 stops from the centre of town on the red metro line 2 is Stadionok, and the Ferenc Puskas stadium, the biggest in the country and home to the occasional home international. The first thing I spotted on exiting the station was a huge group of Swedes. How did I know they were Swedes? Well, apart from being very blonde, very pretty and speaking a Scandinavian dialect, it was their blue t-shirts with yellow writing that said “Swedes” that gave me a clue. It turned out that they were a team of Swedish Handball players on tour in Budapest, although we would bump into them again later in the day.
As we approached the stadium we saw rows of security men. In Eastern Europe security men are easy to spot. They are all 6ft tall, 5 ft wide, with shaved heads and huge black coats – oh and they also love to wear a big badge saying “security”. This crack team were busy protecting the entrance to Budapest’s Green Show – a whole exhibition full of Malcolm and Cressenda types to whom the principal of sneaking in for free is as alien as a day out deforesting. As we went to walk past them they blocked our way and told us that the Exhibition was ticket only and we couldn’t come in – oh what a disappointment that was to my weekend. Filled with disappointment at missing out on such a cultural high point we carried on towards the stadium on the road that passed what appeared to be a market. Now, dear reader, I have already mentioned the similarities between parts of Budapest and Moscow before and this small market was right out of the Soviet Union. Scores of people were setting up stalls in the market area selling what can only be described as shit. Think back to when you last walked along the street in the UK and saw an odd trainer, or a strange pair of trousers? Well that is the kind of high fashion these people were buying and selling. Not content with such shopping, people had set up stalls selling food. No hot dogs or burgers here – oh no….bits of dead birds were being grilled over oil drum fires, and bottles of strange yellow fluids were being passed around. But the overwhelming characteristic of the area was the smell. The distinct smell of piss – and the reason why was evident around the corner. Instead of providing toilet facilities, a wall nearby was serving as the local convenience. All very well, except it was at the top of a small incline and so all of the pee simply ran back down and was beginning to puddle around the market traders feet. Not too be outdone by their male rivals, a few of the women had got into the spirit by hitching up their skirts and squatting down to have a go. Now, not being the shy and retiring type I have seen a few things in my time that could be considered to be risky, erotic and even downright illegal but this was not an attractive sight – in fact it was enough to put me off redtube.com for quite awhile.
We eventually found the stadium entrance, and had a wander around inside. A vast empty bowl, unsuprisingley with no roof for such a cold and wet country and a feeling of underuse and neglect. The stadium, named after Hungary’s most famous ever son Ferenc Puskas was actually full last in 2004 when Steven Spielberg used the stadium as a double for the Olympic Stadium in Munich for the film of the same name. It had all the signs of a classic Communist arena – towering and imposing floodlights, plenty of stark statues around the edge of the outside of the stands and uncomfy seats. Home internationals are played here in front of four figure crowds normally – hard to see it being an inspiring event.
Time was getting on and with the main event of the weekend looming we headed back to the metro and boarded a number 14 tram. At this point I had no idea where we were actually going – none of my maps showed the MTK stadium, but I figured that as they were the current league champions, and front runners again in 2008 that the crowds would guide the way. At the tram stop there was no sign of any fans apart from a saddo wearing a Torquay United shirt (sorry Luge but muppet here and yourself doesn’t actually inspire me that “Gulls” fans are the most dynamic in the world). We did see a chap with a scarf and so comforted ourselves that the rest of the crowd must be in the stadium already. The tram rattled on down the Hungarian Ut for 5 minutes before we saw the crumbling edifice on our right and we hopped off. The stadium looked from the outside as if it had been abandoned years ago and just left to vandals. The ticket office was a small broken window in the outside wall and even in my non existence Hungarian I managed to procure two top of the range tickets for 160Florits, or around £7. Inside the stadium it became clear that the ticket office also doubted up as the womens toilets – the bloke simply locked himself in one of the cubicles – classy.
The MTK stadium was as you would expect in this strange city. Run down, in a poor state of repair with the terraces behind the goal closed off. We sat in the back row of the main stand which offered us a good view. The stadium was actually used in the film Escape to Victory, and it is ironic that the last time it underwent any redevelopment was for the purpose of making it look 40 years older for the film. The small MTK “firm” were stood below us in the 5 row paddock, and opposite our stand was an open terrace with blue and white seats on, completely empty, apart from the group of Swedish handball players.
The game was an entertaining affair. It actually took some time to work out which team MTK were (eventually working out they were the blue team and not the pink team), but it made a refreshing change to be a neutral at a game. A strong second half performance by the champions saw them score three goals without reply, although one miss will live forever in my memory (and in my videos on this page) as the MTK centre forward not only missed a penalty but blazed the rebound over the bar from 5 yards out.
Having not seen any of the cultural elements of the city, we decided to head over to Buda and take in a few of the sites. Football Jo has a dilemma. She wanted to watch the Man Utd v Villa game in a bar, but she was also missing her porn and wanted to track down some dodgy shops. The agreement was that which ever one we saw first we would go into – fortunately for me we found a very nice bar/restaurant behind the Parliament building first. Now this area of the city was more of what I expected. A very nice waterfront, dominated by the caste on the Buda side, and the Parliament on the Pest side, linked by the Chain Bridge. However, too much culture makes Stuart a dull boy and so we settled down for a nice meal, some very good beer and the Tevez/Rooney and Ronaldo show.
After a 3.30am start earlier in the day I declined on a tour of some of Budapest’s finest “alternative” shops and bars and headed back to my apartment (sounds so much better than room) and crashed out by 9pm.
Sunday morning brought glorious sunshine and after a early swim I was ready to face the city. Football Jo wanted to try one of the Thermal baths, and as I had no intention of stripping naked and being pummelled to death by large Hungarians I left her to it and decided to head north to find some of the other grounds. I had a rough idea of where I was heading but after 40 minutes wandering around the same neighbourhood I had to go back to plan B – call home! With the home PC fired up CMF managed to direct me in to FC Vasas’s stadium in the Forgash area north of the Nguyusti area. The stadium when I eventually found it put the others all to shame. If MTK was a dump, then Vasas was a whole refuse tip. Most of the stadium was boarded up, but what was left of the main stand (I assume it was the main stand as it had half a perspex roof on it) was simply rough benches bolted onto the terraces. And this was home to another top division team! Certainly not one to rush back to, and you get the feeling that if this was in England even at the Blue Square South level, the stadium would be condemned.
I rendezvous’d with Jo back in Oktagon and heard of her tales from the baths that saw her best chance of some action for the whole weekend as it appeared she ended up in a locked room with a large Hungarian wearing a small towel – a great opportunity only that he was blind and spoke absolutely no English. She did give him the eye and made suggestive poses before realising his disability, at which point she gave up any hope of a lucky break. I asked her if it was worth it, and based on her comments about the roughness of the massage and the lack of any “totty” at the baths it seems that my adventure in wandering the suburbs of Budapest looking for a 5th rate football stadium was actually a better use of time.
I did have some regret earlier in the morning that I was missing out on something. Hungary is bordered by Poland, Slovakia and Croatia whose females are not exactly at the bottom of the European Ugly league and there was that little devil sitting on my shoulder saying that I was missing the next Miss Hungary competition taking place at the Rudos Baths where Football Jo was, and like the classic scene from the end of Dumb and Dumber all they wanted was someone to oil them up before they went on stage – and that oil boy was me. However, based on the world famous European Totty Register, Budapest was struggling to get out of the relegation places with Luxembourg and Macedonia. Even with the sun shining, the locals weren’t really keen on shedding the chains of winter.
After a quite lunch (Hungarian for Whopper is Whopper – amazing really) we headed off for another bit of culture – and to Budapest’s most visited tourist attraction – The House of Terror. After the 2nd World War, the building in Andrassy Utca, no more than a 2 minute walk from Oktagon, and within 100 yards of the historic Metro Line 1 station at Vorosmarty became the home of the Secret Police and was the scene of hundreds of murders. The museum was very interesting, and the visit down in the purposefully slow lift to the dungeons with the voice of the executioner in your ears is very disturbing. I am not one to feel any “presence” in places like this – I have been to Dachau amongst other places and have never felt a thing – unlike my dear Mother who can feel a presence in any and every place she goes, but the basement area was very spooky.
With a couple of hours left to kill we got back on the tourist trail, had a couple of beers in the city park before heading back on the Hostel train to the airport, and a snooze all the way back to Luton. All in all one of the better trips of the past few years….Just a shame they keep moving the bloody fixtures!
The new book
The National Stadium – The Puskas
Ferencvaros training session
Ulloi Ut Stadium
One of Hungary’s top stadiums
MTK press forward in front of packed house
MTK’s loyal home fans
The Chain Bridge
The House of Terror
The Hungarian Parliament
About the Ulloi Ut
The Ulloi Ut, despite its small capacity, is one of the most famous stadiums in Hungary. It is also the second most important stadium in the city behind the Puskás Ferenc National Stadium. It is located in the south east of the city. The stadium is an open air affair with three stands uncovered, and unusually the main covered stand behind the goal. It is the south stand that is the most historical in the ground, with some of the original architecture both inside and outside the stadium. High fences still exist around the ground.
Another unusual feature is the huge floodlights that lean ominously inwards, and are a defining monument of the whole region. The stadium is known for its passionate fans across the whole of Europe. Despite the problems they currently face off the pitch, the hardcore fans known as the Zöld Sasok, or Green Eagles still generate an intimidating atmosphere for visiting fans. On occasions this has boiled over – such as the UEFA Cup match with Millwall in September 2004 when a number of the English fans were attacked in the stadium.
In years gone by big inter-city derbies were played at the National Stadium, the Puskás Ferenc which holds 66,000 spectators. The stadium is located a few miles north east of the Ulloi Ut and can be reached by local train or metro to the Stadionok stop. A point of trivia about the Ferenc is that it doubled as the Olympic Stadium in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich.
Who plays there?
Ferencvarosi Torna Club, or FTC as they are more popularly known, were Hungary’s most famous and successful club. Whilst the latter is still true, the fame has been replaced by infamy as in May 2006 a decision was made to relegate the club after continued financial irregularities, the first time in their history they have played outside the top division.
The club were originally admitted into the Hungarian league in 1901, and soon starting reaping the success that would characterise their history. In that first decade the club won the title on five occasions. To date they have won 28 Championship titles, the last one being in 2004. Based on their current situation it is not likely that they will repeat this feat any time soon. They have also won the Hungarian Cup on twenty occasions.
They are also the most successful Hungarian team in terms of European competition having won the Fairs Cup (the pre-runner to the UEFA Cup) by beating Juventus in 1965. In 1996 they qualified for the Champions League group stages for the first time, gaining 5 points from their group matches with Real Madrid, Ajax and Grasshoppers. The following season they lost in the qualifying rounds to Göteborg.
In May 2005 they met Sopron in the final of the Hungarian cup at the Puskás stadium. In a stormy match three Ferencvaros players saw red cards in a game which saw them lose the cup. As a mark of protest, the management and the remaining 8 players refuse to attend the medal presentation, leading to further censorship for the club.
How to get there
The stadium is located in the south east corner of the city, adjacent to the main road which gives its name to the stadium. It is on top of Népliget metro which is on Line 3 (Dark Blue) and 6 stops from the main interchange at Ferenc, and the International Bus Station opposite. Journey time from the city centre is around 15 minutes. Trams also run down Ulloi Ut from the old town on a regular basis, stopping at the stadium.
For an overview of who plays where in Budapest, go to Footiemap.com to access their excellent graphical guide to football in the city.
Getting a ticket
Hungarian football is currently in a state of crises. Crowds are down by over 11% year on year, and the average attendance in the Arany Azsok Liga have dropped to an all time low of less than 3,000. Since their enforced relegation Ferencvaros’s crowds have dropped to below 3,000 meaning that there are plenty of seats to be had on a match by match basis. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket windows on their side of the stadium in the run up to the game, or alternatively you can email the club on email@example.com.
Ticket prices range from 1.600Ft in the side stands, to 400Ft behind the goal. A safe bet for the neutral is in sectors A and B in the corner of the main stand which cost 1.100Ft.
About the Puskas Ferenc
Istvanmezei ut 3
The national stadium sits lonely in the west of the city of Budapest, and once held over 104,000 spectators. Today the capacity is a more modest 69,000, although it is still along time since the stadium was even half full. The stadium was constructed between 1948 and 1953 as part of the World War 2 repatriations. One of the first games played in the stadium was the 7-1 defeat of England in 1954. The stadium was originally named as the Nepstadion – the People’s Stadium, although it was recently renamed in honour of the most famous player in Hungarian history.
The stadium is a classic eastern bloc arena which has a wide athletics track, large open banked terraces (now converted to seating) and very imposing floodlights. The stadium also doubled as Munich’s Olympic Stadium for the filming of Steven Speilberg’s 2005 film Munich.
Who Plays There?
The stadium is home to the national team, as well as the annual venue for the Hungarian Cup Finals.
Getting a ticket
If you want to watch a national team game you will have little problem in buying tickets on the day. It has been over 20 years since the stadium sold out, and more recently corwds have struggled to break the 10,000 mark.
How to get there
The stadium is located in the east of the city. It is well served by public transport, the easiest way is by metro on line red M2 to Stadionok and then simply follow the statue path to the ground. Alternatively, main line railway station Keleti is a 5 minute walk to the west of the stadium.
For an overview of who plays where in Budapest, go to Footiemap.com to access their excellent graphical guide to football in the city.
STADION ILLOVSZKY RUDOLF – CAPACITY: 18,000
Fay Utica 58
The Illovszky is one of the most basic stadiums in Budapest. It is an open air affair and today holds 18,000 although it has historically held up to 30,000. Views are good from most places, although the presence of a small cinder running track and wire fencing means that you should avoid the first few rows. Only one stand has a roof, although this only covers the back 6 rows. Seats are plastic benches bolted onto the terraces.
Who Plays There?
The basic stadium is home to SC Vasas, a multi-sport club based in the north of the city. The club were formed in 1911 as a team from the local steel works. They have won six championships – the main period between 1957 and 1966 when they won 5. Their last honour was in 1986 when the won the Hungarian Cup. In 2006 the club should have actually been relegated as they finished in 2nd from last place. However, due to the financial irregularities of Ferencvaros, Vasas were saved.
How to get a ticket
With average attendances struggling to reach 1,500, tickets are not hard to come by on the day of a game. They can be purchased from the small office in the main stand or from the ticket windows on Fay Utca. A ticket in the main stand costs HUF1,200 and elsewhere in the stadium for HUF 1,000.
How to get there
Arpad Hid bus station is a ten minute walk south of the stadium as too is the Metro station on Line M3 of Forgach Utca. To find the stadium continue to walk northwards on Vaci Utca until you reach Fay Utca on right hand side – stadium is 700metres down this road. Alternatively catch tram 14 from Lehel Tar to the stop outside the Oriental Hotel called Frangpan – the stadium is 100yards on the left. For an overview of who plays where in Budapest, go to Footiemap.com to access their excellent graphical guide to football in the city.
Hidegkuti Nandor Stadion
Salgotarjani ut 12
The basic Nandor stadium opened its doors in 1912 as home to MTK Budapest. Today it is a pleasant place to watch football, although a bit sedate. The stadium is named after one of Hungary’s most famous footballers. The stadium was demolished during the second world war, and not used again until 1947. Since 1995 the stadium has been undergoing renovated, although there is no date for the finish of the work, and no real clue as to what they have actually done! On a matchday only the two side stands are open – the main covered stand offers the more comfortable viewing platform.
Who plays there?
MTK Budapest are one of the most successful teams in Hungarian history, with 22 league titles. However the club will always be associated with the Secret Police after they were “adopted” in 1949. To watch MTK in action go to my YouTube.com page.
Getting a Ticket
With crowds struggling to get above the 1,000 mark, it is not difficult to get a ticket for a game to see MTK. The ticket windows by the main stand (which seem to double up as the woman’s toilets!) and cost either 1,800Ft for a seat in the upper (covered) part of the main stand, 1,200Ft for the lower part or 600Ft for the uncovered side stand opposite.
How to get there
The stadium is located a 5 minute walk south of the national stadium. The nearest train station is the Josezfaros Train station which is ajacent to the stadium. For an overview of who plays where in Budapest, go to Footiemap.com to access their excellent graphical guide to football in the city.
Public transport in Budapest is well covered with services provided by BKV, who operate the buses, trolleybuses, trams, suburban railway lines, the metro and boats around the city. The tram network is extensive, and reliable despite poor track infrastructure and an ageing fleet. Routes 4 and 6 combined form the busiest traditional city tram line in the world, with 50-metre long trains running at 60 to 90 second intervals at peak time. There are 3 metro lines and a 4th is about to be constructed. The Yellow line, built in 1896, is one of the oldest lines in the world. A 48 hour Budapest Card costs 6,500Fts allows free transport on all lines. Be warned, the metro system is heavily patrolled with revenue protection officers who show no mercy!
Nearest Airport – Budapest Ferihegy (BUD)
Telephone: +36 296 7000
Budapest’s only airport is located 10 miles south east of the city centre and is the busiest airport in the country, handling around 8 million passengers. It has three terminals, with the newer terminal 1 being used mainly by the budget airlines. From the UK, British Airways fly here from London Heathrow, Easyjet from London Gatwick and Luton, Jet2 from Manchester, Malev Airlines from London Gatwick, Ryanair from Bristol and Nottingham East Midlands and Wizz Air from London Luton.
To reach the city centre catch one of the regular Bus 200 services that run to Köbanya-Kispest metro station where you can continue your journey by train. Alternatively, Bus 93 runs along the same route. It takes around 20 minutes to reach Deák Ferenc Square and a one way ticket costs 230FT. A direct rail link has recenly opened and is accessible by turning left out of the terminal and following the path. The line into the city centre (and Nguyo Station and NOT any other one advertised by Easyjet) is the 1st one. Tickets are 300Ft and have to be bought in advance from the information desk in the terminal.