Although I was only planning to go to Vasas’ home games this year, there are a few local away games coming up and I couldn’t resist the chance to jump on the tram – metro – bus combo that leads to Budafok in the south-west of Budapest.
They like their wooden stadia here in Hungary. There’s the ridiculous one that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán built in his hometown (stadium capacity: 3816, town population: 1688) which looks like Nordic cathedral, and then at the other end of the scale there’s the BMTE stadium, which looks like it was built on DIY SOS.
…complete with seating wide enough for even the most ample association football patron.
We get our 800 forint (£2.22) tickets and our obligatory warm beer (£1.10) and find a few seats in the humid early evening. Thunder is rolling in from the north of Budapest and will eventually engulf us, but for now it’s an idyllic scene, barring the obligatory fences and concrete aesthetic often found in Europe’s stadiums.
A note on the Vasas away support: they are magnificent. The away terrace is not only full but overflowing into the nearby bar/toilet area and they don’t stop singing for the 2+ hours we’re there. When the rain pisses them under cover it just adds to the atmosphere as people shuffle over and share seats. Another thing I notice (even with my very rudimentary Hungarian skills), is that the fans don’t barrack their own players when they mess something up, but are there to actually ‘support’ the team through thick and thin (and recently there’s been a lot more thin than thick). Having sat near an absolute cretin of a Boro fan who repeatedly bellowed out “Skippy” and laughed at every single mistake of our best-ever keeper Mark Schwarzer made, for six sodding years, this is a welcome change. God I hated that man.
One chap who needed a little support after last week’s game was 19 year-old goalkeeper Balázs Bese, who had a nervy debut. He’s been promoted to number 1 this time out and the towering Budafoki front line will surely be gunning for him, but the home team are – on first glance – a side who Vasas are expected to beat. One of 14 Budapest-based teams, they finished in the lower reaches of NBII last year. Support is sparse, and it seems more like an away game than a home one for them. A loss last week against Vac won’t have helped, and Vasas certainly seem the more confident as kick off approaches.
And so it proves – 1-0 in under a minute! A free kick knocked on and nodded past the onrushing keeper by new signing Botond Birtalan. It’s a simple as football gets and a perfect start for Vasas.
But like the game against Monor, an early lead sees Vasas sit back and let their opposition into the match. Budafoki start to get hold of the ball and push forward, while Vasas struggle to impose themselves and that “easy win” mentality fast fades. After a period of pressure, disaster strikes as the hosts equalise in the 18th minute, their forward finding himself one-on-one with Bese and coolly sliding it into the bottom right hand corner.
Not content, Budafoki pile forward, looking for more. In first-half stoppage time a clash in the Vasas box and suddenly the home team have a penalty. It’s not underserved and gives them a perfect chance to go in front, sending Vasas into the dressing room with heads hung low.
But Balázs Bese – who’s already pulled off one decent save this match – decides to start writing his own story at this point. Diving to his left, he produces a fine stop to keep the game level at 1-1. It’s a nice moment for a young man who was jittery and unsure on his debut, and he’s radiating confidence as he basks in his teammates congratulations after the half time whistle. It won’t be the last time they have cause to thank him.
In the second half Vasas mean business. The brickiest of shithouses (and a man who is fast becoming my favourite player) Ádám Martin comes on to cause some bother, and after a scrappy few minutes Vasas are awarded a free kick 25 yards out, just left of centre. I hearby apologise to Mr. Martin, who I’d had pegged as one blessed more with ham shanks than filet mignon, as he curls an absolute pearler into to the top left corner, giving Vasas a 2-1 lead.
Still Budafoki aren’t done and a thumping shot seems destined for the net before Bese gets a strong pair of hands out to parry away. Another one soon after loops towards goal. Cue Bese again, diving full-stretch and seemingly undergoing a mid-air growth spurt to tip away.
After that the result seems academic. The game quietens down and Vasas take control until the ref blows for time. Another game, another stop-start performance, another young hero and another 2-1 win.
The players come to greet the travelling fans after the game before returning to the pitch for their customary salute. Bese hangs back with the fans however, soaking in the supporters plaudits. He deserves it today.
Budafoki MTE 1-2 SC Vasas (Birtalan, Ádám. Attendance 900)
So the league table makes good reading at the moment. We’re still in the “nobody knows who’s good and who isn’t” stage so there’ll be big changes over the next few weeks. Siofok are next for Vasas (away) and they’ve had a stinker of a start this year. A good chance to go top early in the campaign but also a chance for Hinora and Bese to build on their heroics. The Hungarian league rules require a couple of youth players to start games, and Vasas may just have found a couple of rough diamonds in these two.
Notes on other teams:
Tokyo Verdy, the team I followed in Japan are on an absolute tear at the moment, winning five of their last six, chiefly due to the two Brazilians I’d written off as out-of-shape showponies. All is forgiven Douglas Viera and Alan Pinheiro. They won their last game 2-1 thanks to goals from both and currently sit 4th in the J2 League.
Not so good news for my hometown team Middlesbrough: a 97th minute equaliser salvaged a 2-2 away draw at Millwall, but we were outplayed for most of the game and have now lost three of our best players in Ben Gibson, Adama Traore and Patrick Bamford. A long season ahead.
Hungarian football words learned: 2 (kapus = goalkeeper / félidő = half time)