Category Archives: Hungary

Honved Budapest v Szombathelyi Haladás

Honved (Kispest) v Haladas

NBI (league)  Saturday 15th July

I know both friends and family whose actual name is not how they’re known.  I know that this causes them confusion, especially when they have to give their name to somebody and they pause to reflect if it’s their ‘real name’ or not.  “Hello Stuart, may I see your ID please?  It says here ‘Mr R White’?”  Stuart replies “oh yes, that’s R for Robert: that’s just my real name, but people know me by my middle name.”  It is still common practice to inflict this confusion on children, unfortunately.

Perhaps in the case Honved though, it’s more like a married name given to someone who established their reputation before marriage, such as Jessica Ennis (Hill).  The club were founded in 1908 as Kispest AC, and the Kispest name remained until Hungary became a communist state at the end of the 1940s, when they were renamed Honved, and essentially became the team of the Hungarian Army (Honvedseg).

Stadium Entrance

The team enjoyed its most successful years during this incarnation, retaining Puskas and Bozsik from the Kispest team whilst poaching other teams’ players due to conscription and forming the backbone of the ‘Mighty Magyars’ of the ’50s.

In 1991 (post-communism), the club revived the Kispest name becoming Kispest Honved until 2004, when financial difficulties of the ownership provoked the incarnation of the club in its present form, Budapest Honved FC.

At the stadium, however, not one banner, T-shirt or song referred to ‘Honved’ and the fans clearly identify themselves as “Kispest.”

Kispest

Getting There and Buying Tickets

Honved is located in District XIX (nineteen), Kispest, in the south of the city.  To get to the Boszik Stadion from the city centre, it is easiest to take Metro Line 3, which runs from hubs such as Deak Ferenc Ter or Kalvin Ter, towards Hatar Ut (the penultimate stop in the Kobanyi Kispest direction).  Upon exiting Hatar Ut, there is a tram stop to the right and Tram 42 runs from Hatar Ut to just outside the Bozsik Stadion, which is the end of the line, and takes about ten minutes.

Honved Scoreboard

As tickets for the match cannot be bought online, a visit to the ticket booths is necessary.  This is not too problematic as Honved’s average attendance, despite being Hungarian Champions, is 2500-3000 and the capacity is 9000.  These are next to the main entrance, past the seed vendors.  With my Hungarian not being the sharpest, I was going ‘all-in tourist’ and hoping that the attendant would have some level of English.  I was asked for ID and handed over my passport, and the attendant entered my details before asking me where I wanted to sit.  The truth was I wanted to go into the “Kispest” zone, which is all terracing, but was concerned I’d be the tourist among the Ultras and so I repeated ‘Puskas’ three times, which is the ramshackle old stand.  I paid by 3000Ft (10€), which was the premium regular ticket and made my way under the signage and into a long track that winds round the stadium to the turnstiles.  The experience was fairly painless, compared with the nonsense I’d lived at Ferencvaros earlier in the day.

I’ve covered staying in Budapest itself in the Ferencvaros review as well, and the two grounds are easily doable in one day provided the kick-off times are more than three hours apart.

The Bozsik Stadion

This stadium gets a lot of love from groundhoppers for its ‘old school’ appeal, and I’m with them to some extent.  It is to be replaced by a modern, all-seater, fit for purpose stadium and, like trading in Nokia 3310 for an iPhone, the benefits will no doubt outweigh the drawbacks of nostalgia and sentimentality.

The first thing I noticed as I alighted the tram was the towering interrogatory floodlights, whose carbon footprint must be the size of a small airline’s.  They are, however, delightfully spatulaic communist relics and must surely be preserved in some form or another.

God’s reading light

There is fan merchandise spread out across a trestle table near the entrance, and a well-concealed fan shop near the turnstiles, nestled within a scabby office building. The wall around the perimeter of this path is adorned with some proper graffiti art and is not some sanitized corporate facade.

Proceeding to the turnstiles, I was absently patted down by the stereotypical Rock Szteady bloke and scanned my ticket, in the normal way, entering the ground without difficulty.  There are a few refreshment stalls at the turnstiles and under the Puskas stand.  The choice is reasonable, ranging from cucumber-laced hot dogs to schnitzel rolls and any kind of bog-standard Soproni beer you like, and is very much a cash-only operation.

Bowltastic

At this point, it is wise to scope out the toilets, which are to the left of the turnstiles as you enter, and not in the “Bufé” area as logic would lead you to conclude.  This is where all those indulging in their #againstmodernfootball ideologies have to walk the walk, and paddle in the pee of their comrades.

Once I showed my ticket to the attendant of the Puskas Stand, that is accessed from the front, I proceeded towards my seat covered in the ketchup which oozed from my hot dog while fumbling with my ticket just seconds previous.

They don’t sell “restricted view” tickets at Honved. That is all.

Hmmmm

I took it upon myself to find a different spot after kick-off, but the Puskas stand was actually quite full.  So, for the second half, I decided to stand above the seats of the bowl, near the pissers of the Proles, and was much happier.  Standing here took me back to watching Junior Football, with kids chasing each other and a hedge separating the seats from the pitch.  Football doesn’t have enough hedges.  #hedgesnotfences

Budapest Bush

Honved v Haladas

I’d looked though the squads of both teams earlier in the day, and they only player I recognised was the iconic Gabor Kiraly, who is still playing in goal for Haladas, jogging bottoms and all.  However, I wasn’t going to let my ignorance of Hungarian Football, which I was here to experience, allow me to prejudge the quality of football on show.  A promoter of Hungarian may adopt the line Obi Wan uses when training Luke in the ways of the Force – “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them!” – but my eyes, sadly, did not deceive.  The football on show was absolutely honking.  Just about nothing came off, and the frustration of the crowd became increasingly evident.

I was quite impressed with the enthusiasm of the fans on the Kispest tribune – they had an excellent variety of songs and kept going throughout the ninety minutes, generating a good atmosphere given the density of fans in the stadium.  Honved were, however, worthy of their win and their goals came from a near post header in the first half and a nice finish from Laczafame in the second.  If they are the best team in Hungary though, the league is in a sorry state.

I left right on the final whistle, mindful that the trams were small and increasingly infrequent at this late hour.  However, I had to wait ten minutes at the stop and everybody was able to get on without difficulty. I had mixed feelings going back to the hotel about the whole experience.  There is a much less sinister feel about Kispest compared to Fradi, and I the ground and atmosphere was fairly comforting in a nostalgic way, like a Werther’s Original.  However, I could have been at a lower league Belgian or Scottish match, given the surroundings and the quality of match.

Stadium Ratings

  • Quality of match:  **
  • Stadium character: *****
  • Stadium atmosphere:  ***
  • Hospitality: ***
  • Ease of access: ***
  • Things to do around the stadium: **
  • Overall: ***.5

Verdict: If you’re prepared to accept mediocre football and dated surroundings for an authentic, characterful and friendly experience,    then Honved (Kispest) is worth the effort if you’re in Budapest.

 

Ferencvaros v Puskas Akademia

Ferencvaros TC v Puskas Academia

NB I (league)  Sunday 16th July

I’ve always enjoyed the adventure-filled nature of the Bourne series; from the identity-seeking self-discovery of the ‘Identity’, to the steely glances and shadowy invincibility of the more recent, mute incarnation.  Sometimes I have imagined myself in that scenario: all eyes of a visibly oppressive and omnipotent security force searching you out, having to go to outrageous lengths to achieve a sense of calm and normality beyond the world of fingerprints, retina scans and espionage.  However, I now feel that this itch has been scratched, as I have successfully bought a ticket and entered the Groupama Arena, Ferencvaros.

Turnstiles at Groupama Arena

Getting There

The Groupama Arena is immediately adjacent to the ‘Nepliget’ Metro stop, which is on line 3.  If you’re in the centre of Budapest (Deak Ferenc ter) then Nepliget is six stops away, in the direction of Kispest.  The Metro system in Budapest is excellent and, provided you know in which direction you’re heading, is easily navigable.  Nepliget Bus Station is also where many of the International Buses arrive, so the location really is ideal.

Sunny Day in Ferencvaros

Tickets

Normally, I would stick a hyperlink in here, comment on the price of the ticket, simplicity of the website and any glitches or issues to be aware of and move on. Ferencvaros, however, have decided that online ticketing really isn’t for them, which I can understand when a club is having very small crowds and never selling out on the proviso that tickets can simply be bought at the gate.  No. As an occasional fan, tourist or groundhopper coming to Ferencvaros, you are made to feel like a terrorist threat, convicted hooligan and wilful carrier and spreader of Ebola.

Parliament, where they do palm readings

Firstly, you need to register for a ‘Fradi’ card, which is the compulsory fan card which is used to gain entry as well as to load with credit for food and beverages.  This is more ridiculous, and laborious, than passing through United States Immigration and Border Control.  The office where this takes place looks like the inside pan of a deep fat fryer, and is right next to the ticket booths, although finding the door is not as simple as it sounds.  Having made it into the room, I explained the purpose of my rude interruption to the man whose menacing grimace suggested his recording EasztEndersz was set for further postponement.  He actually reminded me of Danny Dyer when he used to do those ridiculous ‘ahd-mahn’ football rivalry shows before adorning a pink dressing-gown in Albert Square.

The surly employee, who will henceforth be known as Danny, barked “ID card now” at me.  I produced said card, which provoked a head shake like I’d told him “my dog ate my homework”, and Danny entered various details from the card into a computer.  He then placed the card down, and asked me to fill out a form, which surely contained the same information he just entered.  I duly obliged, and was then beckoned towards a PC camera.  After he told me not to smile and stored my exasperated image, I was guided towards a plastic device.  I had no idea what this thing was.  I was told to press down with a finger (can’t remember which) on some part of it and then, after several attempts and much frustration evident on Danny’s melted face, a scan of my handprint was subsequently taken.

It crossed my mind at the time that he was taking the piss, seeing me as some gullible foreigner and having a laugh at my expense to break the monotony of his day.  Only later (the next day) did I discover that they actually scan handprints to verify your identity in order to activate the turnstiles to let you in the stadium.  It’ll take time for Viagogo to find a way round that. Oh, wait, nobody uses Viagogo for Ferencvaros matches. Because there’s no demand. Why? Because, well, they’re rotten.

Eating seeds is a pastime activity, the toxicity of our city.

The fruits of my labour, having just arrived at the bus terminal fifteen minutes beforehand, was a ‘Fradi card’ for 1000 Ft (it’s 1500 Ft if you buy it on the same day as the match).  This enabled me to go to the ticket booths and buy a ticket. My ticket was 4200 Ft (around 14€) for a seat fifteen rows back almost on the halfway line.  With the cost of the card added, this was 5200 Ft (about 17€).

Considering that this whole procedure took around twenty minutes with me being the only person there, you can imagine the bottleneck that this causes on match days in the hours leading up to kick-off.  Therefore, getting your Fradi card and ticket the day before, or as early as possible on match day, makes sense.  However, it is a stupid system: having fans arriving over an hour before the game and still getting in late when your stadium is only about a third full is a ridiculous scenario.

The Fool on the Hill

Places to Stay

Budapest is awash with every kind of accommodation you could hope for, so I’d really recommend you do your own search here in accordance with your requirements.  I found a single room for 48€ per night (including a good breakfast) at the Residence Baron, next to Fovam Ter Metro, and was very happy with it, but if I was with a team of lads then there’s a plethora of low-budget alternatives I would’ve considered.  With the Metro being so good, provided you’re near a stop, there’s really no need to be near the ground, even if it’s a late match.

Where is ‘Boy With Apple’?
This is Zubrowka
Gellert Spa
Gellert Outdoor Pool

Budapest

Any preconceptions that may be harboured about Central and Eastern European cities should be rewritten after a visit to Budapest.  This is one of the grandest and most interesting cities you will ever experience.  Having been once before, three years ago, I remembered how much I’d enjoyed it but my memories were more of my experiences, and who I was with, than the city.

For those looking for comparisons, think Paris, but smaller and cheaper.  Getting around the city is probably best done on foot, or public transport if you have the time.  A 24-hour ticket for the public transport network costs 1650 Ft (5.50€) and is well worth it, although there are alternatives (http://www.bkv.hu/en/).  If time is more limited, one of the open-top bus tours is the way to go to get a good overview of the main sights, and a cruise on the Danube is often included.

It would be a shame to visit Budapest and not go to one of the many baths around the city.  The largest baths are the Szchenyi Baths, next to the city zoo, just behind Heroes’ Square, although the Gellert Baths and the Rudas Turkish Baths are also brilliant in their own way.  I had grossly underestimated how much I’d enjoy this experience and how rejuvenated I’d feel afterwards.  It is worth noting that some baths have “men-only” or “women-only” days, and this should be checked out in advance.

Finally, provided you stay away from the upmarket hotels, eating and drinking in Budapest is very cheap compared to most major capital cities.  Visiting Szimpla Kert, the original ruin bar, for a beer and a look around is recommended, although there are loads of nice restaurants, cafés and bars all over the city.

Groupama Arena

The stadium itself has a capacity of 24000 and was opened in August 2014. It seems that many of Hungary’s football teams have either recently renovated their stadium, are in the process of doing so or are about to.  In spite the criticism I have heard levelled at this ground for being “modern and soulless”, sometimes it’s a good thing to not have to stand in puddles of pee in a snaking toilet queue and having a good view of the pitch without having to straddle a pillar isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

My biggest criticism is ridiculously overbearing swarms of stewards and security: there were perhaps 8000 fans at this game and it felt like each had their own member of staff.  As I strolled, 120 bpm Travolta-style, to the turnstiles with my ticket and Fradi card in hand trying to look like I knew what I was doing, I was intercepted by a steward, who did the disinterested pat-down with impressive aplomb. Then, having negotiated my way through a turnstile before, I scanned by ticket under the infrared sensor. Nothing. Other way round maybe. Nothing. The turnstile steward smiled at my helplessness and told me I had to scan my Fradi card (the ticket, therefore, serving no real purpose other than to tell me where to sit).  I did this, but then she said “No. You must scan your hand!” After a couple of attempts, I placed my left hand into their scanner and my Fradi card into the other scanner, simultaneously, and the turnstile clicked, meaning that my “life line” on my left palm didn’t correspond to anything in their database of thugs and litterbugs, therefore I wasn’t the droid they were looking for and I could go about my business.

Once inside, if you’re looking for refreshments, the card system in operation means you find one of the people with a big flag on their back.  You can top up in denominations of 1000Ft it seems, although, by design, a hot dog and a beer is 1030Ft – not an issue if you’re a regular, and quite cheap, but enough to ensure that groundhoppers leave with unspent credit, which is not refunded.  The beer is Soproni, ubiquitous in Budapest, and is OK but nothing to get excited about. However, it was a very cold beer and at 490Ft for 0.4 litres on a hot day was very refreshing.  For 540Ft, a hot dog with these freeze-dried space-food onions and a gloopy mayonnaise was an interesting beer sponge. At least they didn’t try to garnish it with the Devil’s food, cucumber, like they did at Honved.

I found my seat easily enough, and was given the once over by a mustachioed seed-muncher two seats down, presumably because I wasn’t decked out in Fradi merchandise, like most people were.  The sun was beating down relentlessly on my spontaneously freckling bald head and I noticed that most of the supporters in the stand were wearing caps. So, I put my hand to my forehead, like a sailor peering beyond the horizon, hoping that the sun wouldn’t scorch a mark or blister into my hand incase I had to scan it to go for a piss.

As it happens, the toilets are more than adequate, and could accommodate a capacity crowd and the stewards without a problem.  The view from the seat was perfect, the seat itself was comfortable and I had sufficient leg room.  In all honesty, the facilities inside the ground are excellent, provided you can get in.

Ferencvaros v Puskas Akademia

The pre-match ritual involved an extra from Lord of the Rings running round the pitch with an eagle on his arm to some middle-ages feudal music, although I can’t help thinking its effect is diluted when the stadium is so empty.  The fans were fairly enthusiastic but there wasn’t much variety in the singing: any variation of “Hajra” and “Fradi”, in any order, seemed acceptable.

Then, there was the football. The ball behaved like a twelve-sided die, skiting off of feet, shins and heads in random directions.  Some agricultural tackling, reminiscent of Scottish Junior Football, punctuated the match with alarming frequency.  I expected something similar in quality to the Scottish Premiership, or the bottom half of the Pro League in Belgium, but it was nothing like it. It was a big pile of sweaty bollocks, just like the Rudas Baths.

Zoltan Gera strolled around the pitch like he was Pirlo, with the arrogance of someone whose career wasn’t spent yo-yoing between the Premier League and the Championship in England. Unfortunately, while he was one of the better players on show, the 38 year-old’s performance didn’t match his ego.

The best football of the match was nevertheless played on the opening stages, with the home side having a little more of the play without being dominant. It was Puskas’ Academia who took the lead through Szakaly after 24 minutes, who promptly gestured towards the fans and  made himself the pantomime baddie whilst acquiring a yellow card. Moments later, the same player was very lucky not to be sent off for a poor challenge and raising his hands.

Ferencvaros did press for an equaliser and Puskas’ keeper made a couple of good saves until a free kick was awarded on the edge of the box. It looked like a great chance, and the keeper left a large gap to his left. So, I sneaked out camera (having seen how friendly the staff were to tourists, I wasn’t keen to sample the fans’ disdain by filming like I was at Stamford Bridge) pointed it in the general direction of the goal and Varga flighted the ball into the top corner to equalise.

The second half was a not plot full of twists and turns but a collection of incomplete short stories, where you had to imagine the ending of each move, just like those “complete the story” competitions for teen authors.  This passage of play could be summed up by the fact that two players, named ‘Poor’ and ‘Koch’, were booked for clumsy tackles.  It was indeed, a limp affair.

A draw was probably a fair outcome for the match and, while I sometimes come away from games in buoyant mood feeling that nobody deserved to lose, this was a match where nobody deserved to win.  The stand emptied very efficiently and within ten minutes, I was being whisked back towards Kalvin Ter along line 3 where my dinner awaited. I was Hungary.

Stadium Ratings

  • Quality of match:  **
  • Stadium character: **
  • Stadium atmosphere:  ***
  • Hospitality: ****
  • Ease of access: *****
  • Things to do around the stadium: *** (although loads 15 minutes away)
  • Overall: **.5

Conclusion: Ferencvaros’ stadium is perfectly situated and, once inside, is a very respectable arena. However the experience leaves a lingering aftertaste, like cucumber on a hot dog, of bewilderment at the complicated method of ticket acquisition (which is not worth the hassle – go to Kispest), and disappointment at the level of quality on the pitch.