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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.