After nearly three years of lodging in Újpest, Vasas finally returned home to Angyalföld (District XIII) this month.
The newly-rebuilt Rudolf Illovszky Stadium has been looming large in the district for a while now (it’s right opposite my gym as well), and there was a carnival atmosphere as the doors were finally opened. Stalls, food trucks, beer flowing, even the chance to have a kick about on the training pitches. I couldn’t resist getting myself a little souvenir.
Being away from the local community is difficult for a team, so the return was an emotional affair. Past players were commemorated and banners unfurled. There were theatrics and gymnastics, national anthems and live singers. It was a massively impressive community effort and the pride of the Vasas fans in their new home was clear to see. No more slumming it up north, the club is back in its heartland.
I remember when my home team Middlesbrough first moved to The Riverside Stadium in the 90s. Although it was sad to see the old ground Ayresome Park go, the sense of pride, of “this is my club and look how mint and impressive this new place is” was the overriding emotion. Looking around the stadium, the same feelings were in evidence.
The match itself was almost secondary, played at a testimonial pace. The opposition were DAC (from the ethnically-Hungarian part of Slovakia), and they came in impressive numbers. Although the game wasn’t a classic, it did provide some memorable moments, such as Botond Birtalan, the man I interviewed last month, getting the first and second goals in the new stadium in a 2-0 home win. He’ll be hoping to do the same in the first competitive game next month (although Adam Balijti, the usual penalty taker, will probably be on the pitch then, so make sure it’s from open play Botond).
A superb atmosphere, a home win, a team that has retained its big guns from last year. The season begins soon and I can’t wait. A team that came so close last time, with a settled squad and good manager are going to be hard to beat. Roll on promotion. Hajrá Vasas! and – for the first time in a while – Hajrá Angyalföld!