Continuing our adventures around the grounds of Budapest, Kevin (Fitba & Foci), Mike, and I recently took a long overdue trip to the Sport Utcai Stadion, home to NBIII (Keleti) side BKV Előre SC. After several weeks of writing individual reviews, Kevin and I have decided to co-author on this one.
There’s an absurd truism over here that every Hungarian team gets a brand spanking new stadium paid for by Viktor Orban’s football obsession and its resultant funnelling of Hungarian funds. The fact that Orban’s hometown of Felcsút (population 1688) has a beautiful, wooden football cathedral with a 3800 capacity tells you everything you need to know about the endemic corruption in the Hungarian football system, but also throws the “have-nots” into sharper relief.
BKV Előre are the Budapesti definition of the footballing “have-nots”, to the point where you can look out of the small windows at the back of their near 100-year-old stadium and see MTK Budapest’s pristine Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion not 20 yards away.
As our regular team Vasas were away to Ajka this weekend (they won 2-1, continuing their rise up the table), Kevin, Mike and I had arranged to visit the mundanely named Sport Street Stadium and hopped on the metro over to District VIII to catch BKV against Veszprém.
Usually when we gallavant around Budapest we tend to root for the home team as part of our capital city solidarity (Ferencváros excepted of course). Today however, we were visiting BKV – the team of the Budapest public transport company. Any Budapesti will know that it’s hard to sympathise with the folks who work for what is now the BKK – notoriously miserable bastards who have a reputation for shaking down tourists. Many of my mornings have been punctuated by the scowls and grunts of their ticket-checkers and – although they seem to be in the middle of a charm offensive with younger and more friendly staff at most metro stations – my loyalties were somewhat divided in this third division league clash.
Ironically, no tickets are needed for this match against Veszprém, just a mask. We’re waved through to the fairly spartan concrete-and-steel main (and only) stand, facing a brutalist block of flats and – in the distance – the brand new Puskás Aréna.
Normally ones to arrive ahead of kick-off to pick the best seats in the house and get our in-match beer, we were naturally 5 minutes late for the game involving the side of the Budapest Public Transport; the irony was not lost on us.
Taking a seat in the sparsely populated stand with said in-match beer – Dreher, 500 HUF – we readied ourselves for an afternoon of football and public transport puns from our resident light entertainer, Mike.
This week’s Mike O’Malley knowledge bomb on the visitors, Veszprem, concerned the cities prominent role in the installing of Christianity as the dominant religion of Hungary in the early years following the creation of the Hungarian state by King Stephen I.
Furthermore, there was a tale of a Catholic Bishop – who controlled the town – refusing to have a railway station build in Veszprem. The station was built in the next town over and ultimately led to a period of financial ruin for the town.
Kevin’s contribution to the Veszprem knowledge-bombs was to add that the city is more well known for its handball team than the football club; and that one of his good friends, Björn Sätherström, was a former coach of the handball team.
The game itself was one of the poorer matches we’ve witnessed so far on our Groundhopping tour of Budapest, played out on a heavy, rain sodden pitch more reminiscent of a local public park than a third-tier stadium.
Given the surface, the prospect of either side being able to play any sort of passing game was highly unlikely and both resorted to a direct, hit and hope style; broken up by an odd moment or two of skilful play, which was usually followed by a bone-crunching tackle.
The visiting Choirboys – as we christened Veszprem – settled quickest and asserted themselves on the game from the opening exchanges with BKV on the back foot for long spells, struggling to get out of first gear.
Veszprem struck first shortly after the midway point of the first half, Major heading home a freekick from the right as the BKV keeper, Czuczi, arrived late to gather the cross.
The Veszprem forward added a second from the spot 6 minutes after the break and, despite BKV’s best attempts to get their attack back on track, a thumping 20-yard effort from Babos derailed the hosts once and for all.
BKV Előre 0 – 3 Veszprém
A post-match visit to the club bar evoked memories of hazy social clubs gone to seed. The heroic photos of socialist-era teams on the walls contrasting with the now empty wood-panelled lounge (although Kevin did manage to get chatting with – of all things – a Hungarian Aberdeen fan).
Clubs like Előre always seem to be in terminal decline, but no doubt some football tourist will come here in twenty years time and say exactly the same thing about a club hanging limpet-like to it’s own particular niche. That is unless Orban stumps up the cash for another new stadium.