Two Seas, 8 Stadiums: Groundhopping in Bahrain

Welcome to a shift in tone for Sub Story. Budapest’s wonderful old stadiums are no more, my Vasas season card sits idle in my wallet, and I’ve said goodbye to my erstwhile matchday companions Kev and Mike. Instead we (metaphorically) and I (literally) move to Bahrain – a name which means Two Seas. The country is a small island in the Gulf, located between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

I’ve just moved back here, and am primed to do some more groundhopping, but unfortunately information in English on Bahraini club football is thin on the ground – hopefully I’ll be able to learn and share a few things on my travels so that visiting fans can step into the world of Bahraini football more easily. Let’s take a look at what’s in store.

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Last Match in Budapest (Vasas vs. Soroksár)

So it looks like this is my last football match in Budapest. I’m making the move back to my adopted home of Bahrain next month; the second lockdown in Hungary is upon us; and all games are going back behind closed doors. There was an inevitability about this announcement, despite Vasas taking all the precautions they could to stop the spread of Covid at their matches it was never going to be enough with the spike in numbers here.

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Groundhopping: BKV Előre vs. Veszprém

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’s Sport Utcai Stadium on the left, in sharp relief with MTK Budapest’s Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium on the right.
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Running in Budapest (Vasas vs. Debreceni EAC)

Vasas’s victory over Szeged before the international break was much-needed, if not convincing. On Sunday they had a chance to consolidate this against basement-dwellers Debrecen (not that Debrecen, the other, less successful one – DEAC).

But before that it was time for a race or two. Since lockdown my mate Dom and I have taken up running. Having never run anything beyond a 5K before (good old Middlesbrough Parkrun), I was keen to see how I’d handle something a bit more onerous. A few weeks back I managed my first 10K race, and on Sunday the NATO Run seemed too good to pass up.

Me (right) with Dom. NATO approved beers in hand.
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A Map of Football Teams in Budapest by District

Original

I’ve been to a fair few grounds in Budapest over the last year or so, so thought I’d put this district map together. Teams in bold are in the upper leagues or have won league titles in the past.

Space-wise, I only had room for the most notable team in each district (sorry BKV Előre, it’s not you, it’s me). I couldn’t find anything of note in the central districts.

I’ve updated it with a few of the notable historical connections and associations, either from when the clubs were founded or during the communist regime, when clubs such as Honvéd and Újpest were co-opted into being army and police teams.

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Groundhopping – BVSC Zugló

Vasas were (losing) away again this Sunday, so once again we used our free day to visit another of Budapest’s storied lower league teams, this time heading north to District XIV to see BVSC Zugló.

Szőnyi úti Stadion: built in its current form in 1952. Home of BVSC Zugló
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Baptism of Dire (Siofok vs. Vasas)

The latest sacrificial lamb in the Vasas dugout: Szabolcs Schindler.

Going one-nil down against Siofok within a minute was probably not part of new Vasas manager Szabolcs Schindler’s pre-match plan. Going 2-0 down after 15 minutes was probably a fair indication of what managing this ragged and panicky team is going to be like for him. He’s probably a nice fella – he doesn’t deserve this.

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Bye Bye Bene, Bene Bye Bye

At this point it’s not really worth my time learning their names.

So despite seemingly having the Hungarian Second Division equivalent of a Man City budget and a team containing pretty much every top scorer of every tier for the last four years, Vasas had started this season with a resounding “meh”.

Well sadly, that “meh” was downgraded to a “ffs” yesterday, as the 13th District boys managed to lose 3-1 at Budaors: a town in a landlocked country that’s primarily famous for its fishmarket.

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Balajti’s Vasas Start to Click (Szentlőrinc vs. Vasas)

Ádám Balajti makes it 3-0. (photo from http://www.vasasfc.hu)

Depressed though I am that Middlesbrough legend George Friend is leaving for the perennial mediocrity of Birmingham, I have a match to watch. We’re four games into a new campaign and before today it’d been anything but smooth sailing for big-spending Vasas. Two utterly turgid draws dented the fans’ (and my) pre-season optimism, before an unconvincing victory against Csákvár finally saw the Ironworkers get one in the win column.

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Corona Ends Vasas Promotion Hopes

On the long list of important things affected by Covid-19, a late promotion push by Hungarian second division team Vasas FC is probably not foremost in your brainspace, nor was it in mine. Football is not just secondary right now, it’s so low down the list of priorities as to be near-irrelevant given the loss and disruption inflicted by Coronavirus. Still, I started this season so I’ll finish it with a quick update.

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