New Hungarian football stadiums: They are of strategic importance

I judiciously avoid talking about football/soccer because I know nothing about it and have absolutely no interest in the game. I practically never look at the sports pages where articles occasionally appear on sports-related political news. As a result, I often miss the latest extravagances of the Orbán government, especially when it comes to football.

Of course, one doesn’t have to be a sports fan to know that Viktor Orbán was known already in his college days as a man interested in only two things: football and politics. Already during the first Orbán administration there was a tendency to emphasize projects that, according to the spin doctors, make people happy and proud. Oh, how much better Hungarians would feel if they just had a team like the “Mighty Magyars”  of the 1950s. There was talk about putting lots of money into football and even about the Hungarian government’s intention to host the Olympic games. The government hired a firm to calculate the cost of such an undertaking but politics interfered: Viktor Orbán lost the elections and the idea mercifully died.

But, if I read Viktor Orbán’s mind correctly, his dream of having the Olympic games in Budapest is only being shelved for a few years while the Hungarian government, despite its current financial troubles, spends billions and billions to construct facilities that could eventually house the Olympic games.

Meanwhile ever since the 2010 elections we hear about larger and larger subsidies to various sports. One of the first government decisions was to allocate an additional one billion forints to the Hungarian Olympic Committee; a few months later it received another 700,000 forints. Viktor Orbán announced a few months after his inauguration that all investment in sports will be returned at least threefold. Hungary “will be a sports nation,” he proclaimed. He envisaged an immediate investment of 15 billion forints in sports. Not all sports, only the ones that attract large audiences. Sports that are popular: football, handball, basketball, water polo, and hockey. The Fidesz politician in charge of sports admitted that this investment was a drain on the budget but added optimistically that it “will be recouped in four or five years.”  All in all, no one was surprised to hear in August 2010 that “the government considers sports to be of strategic importance.” By December the government decided to raise the amount of money earmarked for sports to 24 billion.

The Wall Street Journal reported that although Hungary hadn’t qualified for any major international tournament since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, the time had arrived, according to Sándor Csányi, the new president of the Hungarian Football Federation, for Hungary to be a real factor once again in the game of football. Csányi, accompanied by Viktor Orbán, gave a press conference at which they promised a revival of Hungarian football. It was at this press conference that the two men announced that a new stadium would be built to replace the run-down Puskás Stadium in Budapest (formerly known as Népstadion, People’s Stadium, but renamed Puskás Stadion on Fidesz insistence) in the hope of attracting major international events in Hungary. Orbán himself saw a 10-15-year plan for the revitalization of football that at the end “would elevate Hungarian football to the forefront of world soccer.”

By November 2010 the decision was made for the the central government to finance the construction of a new stadium in Debrecen that will cost ten billion forints and will seat 20,000 people. It will be a rather spectacular stadium if we can believe the plans.

This Monday the fate of the new “National Stadium” was also decided. Parliament voted on the law that would allow the construction of the jewel of all Hungarian stadiums. There was talk about naming it Ferenc Puskás Stadium, but according to the latest “the people” will decide on the name. Significantly, the bill talks about building the stadium as part of “the reconstruction of the Budapest Olympic Center (Budapesti Olimpiai Központ or BOK).” BOK is located in the vicinity of the current Puskás Stadium. The new stadium will seat 65,000 people and will be completed by 2016.

The details of the new stadium are not known, and therefore there is a lot of speculation about the exact location of the new structure. According to current plans it would be built between Syma Hall (Syma-csarnok) and the currently existing Puskás Stadium. But according to the media there is simply not enough space available between these two structures.

 Syma Hall and the old Népstadion

An even greater question is where the money will come from. Apparently in next year’s budget not a penny can be found for the project. And without any designated funds not even plans can be drawn up and paid for.

But never mind, according to László Vígh, the commissioner in charge of stadium buildings, there might be a change in next year’s budget that will take care of this small problem. As for how much it will cost, Vígh refuses to dwell on the details. He promises more information once plans are drawn up.

One of the best known (and most notorious) football clubs in Budapest is the Ferencváros or Fradi, which is headed nowadays by Gábor Kubatov, of the Kubatov list fame. Fradi fans are the ones who specialize in anti-Semitic slogans at games. Kubatov is infamous too. He was the man who boasted about Fidesz’s ability to identify all the people who vote for MSZP. The new Fradi chief also has grandiose plans for tearing down his present  stadium and building a new one for 22,500 people. Of course, the Hungarian government will supply the money either in whole or in part. This stadium also looks fairly grand.

And there is still the “mini”-arena that is being built for the Ferenc Puskás Football Academy’s students and, naturally, for Viktor Orbán himself in Felcsút. Last December we learned that the Academy asked for four billion forints from the budget for the erection of a 3,500-seat stadium. Keep in mind that Felcsút where the academy is located has a population of 1,800. Shortly after the news of the generous subsidy was released, Népszabadság wrote an editorial  in which the editors compared the relatively modest Viktor Orbán in 2000 who wanted to be sure that  “we shouldn’t receive the largest subsidy” in Tokaj where the Orbáns and their business partners owned a vineyard with the situation now when among all the applicants for government subsidies, Orbán’s Academy received the largest amount. Zipp, an Internet paper, wrote an editorial about the Academy’s new stadium entitled “Felcsúti megalománia.” And pictures of Ceauşescu’s stadium, today in disrepair, in the dictator’s village were also displayed in Hungarian opposition papers.

I should add that Hungarian football is so bad that many local fans refuse to attend the matches. Only a few thousand people can be found at local games. And the quality of Hungarian football is not improving. What will happen to these huge stadiums? I fear that they not only will not bring money in but their maintenance will cost a great deal. Who will be financially responsible for them? The City of Budapest, close to bankruptcy? Or the terribly indebted Debrecen? It is true madness.  And all this while the country is in terrible financial shape.

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Csoda. Kegy
Guest

Dear Eva, you are right to be critical of government expenditure on these sort of things. Bt sadly the Hungarian government is not alone in financing follies. The UK government’s financing of the Millenium Dome, now renamed the O2 Arena, stands testimony to that. One can only hope their bad “investments” are outweighed by the good investments, like the wonderful swimming facilities which support truly world-class swimmers.

Paul
Guest
As a football fan, Hungarian football has long puzzled me – especially the situation in Debrecen. Our local team, Loki, are currently the most successful team in Hungary, and have been for several seasons (allowing for a bit of a ‘blip’ last season). And yet the ‘stadium’ (“ramshackle” is the word that most comes to mind here), which I would guess has a capacity of less than 10,000, is rarely more than a quarter full. There are the odd games when all the seats are sold, but rarely more than one or two a season, the rest of the time Hungary’s most successful team, representing it’s second largest city, play in front of just a few thousand fans in a mostly empty stadium. To an English fan, this screams out one very loud question – where does the money come from? English teams with this level of attendance constantly struggle with money and often find themselves forced into receivership, or are bought for a pittance by the next newly rich fool of a businessman, fulfilling his childhood dream of owning a football team (before he in turn runs up huge debts and bails out). And there’s no way such teams… Read more »
Guest

London Calling!

I agree Eva – I can’t get interested in football either – I don’t have a low enough IQ.

Regards

Charlie

Paul
Guest

As for the Olympics – I frequently visit the part of east London where the Olympic park is being built, so I have a very good idea of the massive scale of building and investment needed for a modern-day Olympic bid. The idea of Hungary trying to do the same is utterly mind boggling.

Given that Orbán is such a foci fan, I think it’s more likely that his long-term plan is to stage the Euro football finals, almost certainly in partnership with a neighbouring country, probably Slovakia (in the same way that Poland and the Ukraine are doing at the moment).

This would still require substantial investment, not least in infrastructure, but would be just about within Hungary’s reach – especially if two or three large stadia just happen to have been built recently.

Mind you, this would all depend on Hungary staying on reasonably good terms with at least one neighbouring country…

Paul
Guest

Nice timing, Charlie.

tigerente
Guest

Charlie, Chelsea player Frank Lampard is said to have an IQ of around 150, if I’m not mistaken, so hooligans notwithstanding, I don’t see the connection!

I agree with Paul, especially considering that the countries hosting a tournament qualify automatically. However, with the way Orbán is antagonizing everybody in sight I doubt there’s a neighboring country willing to be a future co-host. Nevermind all the crazy spending on these projects would be just that, crazy.

petofi
Guest

“Shall we dance?” …Victor Orban waltzing the country to its doom.

Lutra lutra
Guest

Of course Orbán could have launched a mission to continue the roll-call of great Hungarian scientists and inventors at the same level as in the 20th century but that would have needed a much bigger investment than modernising football stadiums, and not fit in with Viktór’s personal preferences.
I wonder what the Big Scheme would have been if Orbán bred pedigree dogs in his spare time…

Guest

London Calling!

Tigerente.

It’s best not to ‘rise’ to English (subtle) humour. Paul recognised it was a gentle ‘pop’ at him – and responded in the best way possible – pithily and obliquely.

In the moves of subtle chess humour – it was checkmate! I woke up to a good laugh!

(And there are many, and better, examples – even to someone so ignorant of football as me – Eric Cantona for instance. (Oh No! – I know this much – it probably won’t end here.))

Regards

Charlie

Dubious
Guest

Combining the comments of Orbán and Paul, I think one solution is for the Hungarian government to buy a good English premier football team and move them across.

Or alternatively, one or more of our very own home-grown oligarchs should buy one. Manchester United (name picked at random) proudly supported by Közgép and TriGranit. They can construct their own stadium.

Ovidiu
Guest

Dubious :
Or alternatively, one or more of our very own home-grown oligarchs should buy one. Manchester United (name picked at random) proudly supported by Közgép and TriGranit. They can construct their own stadium.

That would be wiser.
In some (Hungarian) sense it is has already happened in Romania where CFR-Cluj/Kolozsvar (a B-league team) was bought by the local oligarch Árpád Pászkány and then brought to national success.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CFR_Cluj

If it has not happened already in Hungary it means that the (relatively) low interest in football of the Hungarians makes such investments unattractive,
“Fortunately” there is such thing as the State and its taxation-scheme, a formidable invention which allows the politicians to spend people’s money without having to bother with feasibility.

GW
Guest

Not one of these planned stadiums would be large enough to serve as the principal site for an Olympic Games. Any argument by this government that that these facilities are intended for the Olympics must either be cover for handing out large construction contracts (with all the potential for graft and corruption such projects can have) or simply a sign that the Fidesz flavour of meglamania and spectacle in Hungary is now going down the road of Kim Il Jong’s Pyongyang.

Kirsten
Guest

CharlieH

It’s best not to ‘rise’ to English (subtle) humour. Paul recognised it was a gentle ‘pop’ at him – and responded in the best way possible – pithily and obliquely.

I have not at all grasped what either your comment or Pauls reply could have meant. “Timing” as an answer to “IQ”, the humour is indeed “oblique” :-).

Odin's Lost eye
Guest

Kirsten
sometimes English Humour can be a bit oblique
This is an old Glaswegian song
“He’s footba crazy, He’s footba mad
An’ the footba’s robbed him o the wee bit ‘o’ sense he had
It would tak’’ a dizen skivvies his claes to wash an’ scrub
Ever since our Vic became a member ‘O’ that terrible footba club”
And so on. (sorry if my Glaswegian accent and spelling is a bit adrift)

oneill
Guest

To be fair, the Hungarian international team at any rate is a sleeping giant. A successful team could easily pull in over 50,000. But success depends on a number of things and wont happen overnight and certainly not because of money thrown at afew training schools.

Club football is a sad joke unfortunately and a 20,000 stadium for Debrecen is 100% more than the capacity required.

But at the moment all the attention in Budapest is turned towards the Euros, every bar is rammed solid and it is probably just the right moment propaganda wise to fly these hopeless ideas in the air.

tigerente
Guest

Charlie, mine wasn’t a real recrimination either, hence the mention of hooligans. I thought about accompanying my comment with a ; ) but decided against using a smiley. I shall use one now. ; )

gdfxx
Guest

Csoda Kegy:”Dear Eva, you are right to be critical of government expenditure on these sort of things. Bt sadly the Hungarian government is not alone in financing follies. The UK government’s financing of the Millenium Dome, now renamed the O2 Arena, stands testimony to that. ”

Well, comparing the financial situation of Hungary to that of the UK is somewhat of an exaggeration. Further, if the UK electorate disagrees with these investments, they have a much better chance for throwing the government out than the Hungarian electorate, which has to fight the FIDESZ government etched in stone by their various laws implemented trough their two thirds majority in parliament.

gdfxx
Guest

Ovidiu: “In some (Hungarian) sense it is has already happened in Romania where CFR-Cluj/Kolozsvar (a B-league team) was bought by the local oligarch Árpád Pászkány and then brought to national success.”

I am sure you are familiar with the results of this team winning. Scenes of hooliganism unheard of in recent decades in Cluj/Kolozsvar took place, and the fans of CFR were not without guilt (although it seems the other team’s fans were the main cause)..

Paul
Guest

Kirsten :
CharlieH
It’s best not to ‘rise’ to English (subtle) humour. Paul recognised it was a gentle ‘pop’ at him – and responded in the best way possible – pithily and obliquely.
I have not at all grasped what either your comment or Pauls reply could have meant. “Timing” as an answer to “IQ”, the humour is indeed “oblique” .

Kirsten – I wouldn’t get too bothered about ‘English humour’, following a post by a declared football fan with a comment implying interest in football requires a low IQ, is about as subtle as the proverbial bull in a china shop. My comment in reply was extreme restraint, not subtlety.

But then we shouldn’t be too surprised that the man who tops and tails his posts in the way he does failed to grasp the non-subtleties of the situation.

And Odin’s example of “English humour” was Scottish!

Guest

London Calling!

I thought it only fair to leave the response to you, Paul.

No surprises there though!

Regards

Charlie

Ovidiu
Guest
gdfxx : Ovidiu:I am sure you are familiar with the results of this team winning. Scenes of hooliganism unheard of in recent decades in Cluj/Kolozsvar took place, and the fans of CFR were not without guilt (although it seems the other team’s fans were the main cause).. More or less familiar, I am not a soccer-fan and do not live in Cluj, but I saw on TV some horrific-bloody scenes from Cluj. I also recall that there were trials in Cluj few years ago where a few of them (from the other team “U”, not CFR) ended with 4-6 years sentences. But the same happens in every important city. Cluj/Kolozsvar is nothing special, each city has its own “Ultras” -shock troops (depending on how many First League soccer teams are in that city ). They only seek eachother to battle, that’s the whole point. It is not football which interests them, they have their own “match” for which they go to the stadium. They compete on who is taking the things further (more violent, more extreme, more risky..it is all about proving themselves brave, more about “young-male” bellicose psychology than about being a team-supporter). The anti-governmental demonstrations from February in… Read more »
Guest
London Calling! I think I can understand why football and it’s ambivalent interest fluctuate in Hungary it could be expressed simply but that would not satisfy the prolixity quota and would not be doing it justice. Or indeed to those who show complete interest in the activity as it serves a symbolical function as well as a cultural-imaginary construct defining (and enforcing) group boundaries. You are on the wrong track if you attempt to treat football as a garden-variety case of competitive strife. Magyars have always had a sense of sporting- footballistic “isolation” in Europe playing the “good foot bad foot” routine – or the understanding of the off-side rule – as it effects former liberal elites. An example of this kind could be Mutt’s reactions here – a reaction focused on condemning and bashing football-intelligence instead of understanding what drives it.It would be useful to face the distant past but the present football elites (let alone the mass of people) understand through this lack of (acute enough) footballing consciousness and solidarity and his lack of team conformism. You will not be able to control the ball if you don’t understand it. Mere kicking and dribbling will ever work, it… Read more »
Ovidiu
Guest

CharlieH :
London Calling!
I think I can understand
Regards
Charlie

If you were only to write something in addition to personal attacks it would be an improvement, Charlie.

Call Of Duty Stuff
Guest

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