For the last few years, while the redevelopment of old Hungarian football stadiums has marched on apace, I have felt somewhat left out as the likes of the Ferenc Puskás Stadion (the old Népstadion), the Albert Flórián Stadion (former Ferencváros home stadium) and more recently Vasas’ Illovzsky Rudolf Stadion and MTK’s iconic Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion (we all surely remember its’ starring role in “Escape to Victory”?) have been erased from the footballing map if not its consciousness.
They have been replaced by undoubtedly better facilities but as always the shiny new arenas lack the grace and elegance that can only be achieved with the reverence and patina that only old age affords. I hasten to add that one new Hungarian stadium that is the exception to the sterility of modernist construction is the Puskás Akadémia stadium in Felcsút, which is audacious in design and alluring in appearance. Felcsút is a small village which has become synonymous with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a huge football fan, and one of the driving forces behind the provision of better football facilities. The collective hope is that better stadiums will lead to the country challenging on the world stage once again.
With the wind of change sweeping across the football landscape of Hungary I was determined to get to a few grounds this season and probably top of the list was BKV Előre’s quite magnificent Sport utca Stadion. Erstwhile neighbour to MTK’s old, and now new, Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Előre’s huge grandstand rightfully holds a lofty status among football stadia aficionados.
Előre currently ply their trade in Hungary’s third tier and since formation in 1912 have never really hit the heights of success, a sole appearance in the final of the Magyar Kupa came in 1934, but ended in defeat to Soroksár. The club has spent a total of four seasons in the top flight of Hungarian football during their 1940’s and 1950’s heyday. Előre’s wider sports associations have produced several Olympic Games medallists. The club has its roots in the cities’ iron workers and in 1923 a merger occurred with a team representing transport workers. The grandstand at the Sport utca Stadion dates from this merger era, the original pre-merger club played at a field simply known as Nova Pálya (New Field). The rest of ground is, by comparison, somewhat of a disappointment. Opposite the gargantuan grandstand is a small sized all weather training pitch with a token few rows of seating and a couple of dugouts. Previously there was a large covered standing area on this side of the ground. One end of the ground houses MTK’s old offices and the other end is BKV’s indoor bowls club.
This afternoon’s match sees Előre gaining some much needed additional income as MTK’s second string use the main pitch for their Nemzeti Bajnokság III Keleti fixtures and today sees Debrecen’s second XI role into the capital.
A muddy pitch sees the hosts ease to comfortable win in a game low on excitement, although strangely all three goals come from substitutes. The real excitement comes from the wonderful grandstand, some might say a draughty almost redundant relic of yesteryear but most will regard it for what it is an iconic and beautiful old stand belligerently still doing sterling service in a throwaway society. And after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Sunday November 29th 2016 – Nemzeti Bajnokság III Keleti
MTK Budapest II 3 (Csicsek 31,71, Lustyik 80)
Debrecen II 0
Att:42 (at BKV Előre)
Admission free, teamsheet free