Despite Viktor Orbán’s best efforts, Hungarian football is not a success story

I never  in my wildest dreams thought that one day I would be searching for details on some fine points of football/soccer. In fact, in my teenage years I was so indifferent to the world’s favorite sport that I wouldn’t even attend the “game of the century” in Pécs when the “Golden Team/Mighty Magyars” played against the not so mighty locals. But what can one do if Hungary is today cursed with a prime minister for whom football is the most important thing after politics? (Or perhaps even ahead of it.)

Football for Viktor Orbán seems to be so important that he even subordinates matters that are vital to the well-being of his people (education, healthcare, and social services) to his favorite sport. Austerity measures are introduced three or four times a year in order to keep the deficit under the required 3%, but these measures never touch the sacred game of football. Other sports in which Hungarians are much more successful receive only meager–and ever decreasing–government subsidies.

I have to trust those who know something about the game and who claim that Hungarian football is currently beyond redemption. They emphasize that the kind of professional football that is played today pretty well precludes the possibility of Hungary ever becoming the football powerhouse that Viktor Orbán dreams of. Football is business, big business. And the borders are wide open. A talented Hungarian football player could make millions of euros in another country. But there is one major problem: there are no truly outstanding Hungarian players, and it looks as if there won’t be any in the near future.

Viktor Orbán, whose energy between 2002 and 2010 was spent primarily on his efforts to regain power, put aside enough time to ponder the future of the struggling Hungarian football enterprise. One of his many goals as prime minister was the revival of Hungarian football, but the way he has gone about it is not likely to produce results. He launched a stadium construction and renovation project in 2010, scheduled to be completed in 2018 to the tune of 140-160 billion forints. The  map below gives a fair idea of the magnitude of the undertaking. Altogether 33 stadiums will be built or renovated. Unfortunately, the quality of Hungarian football is so bad that the stadiums today are practically empty. I assume that Orbán thinks that better stadiums will attract  more fans; if you build them they will come. Stadionprojektek But where will the players come from? From the football academies, of course. Oh, yes, the football academies. Viktor Orbán received some bad news on that front recently. Some time ago the Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) asked the independent Belgian firm Double Pass to assess the work being done in the Hungarian football academies. The verdict as summarized by MLSZ is devastating. Double Pass also ranked the Hungarian academies, which MLSZ wanted to keep secret. There was good reason for the secrecy. The “famous” Ferenc Puskás Academy backed by Viktor Orbán was ninth out of twelve! This is the same academy that, according to the prime minister, was among the top ten in Europe!

Even the best Hungarian academy, the Debreceni Labdarúgó Akadémia, is inferior in comparison to academies in other European countries with strong teams. In Hungary training methods are old-fashioned and not uniform. There are no trainers who specialize in developing particular skills. Recruiting is done on a part-time basis. Psychological coaching is sorely wanting. The Hungarian academies don’t use modern training software. And the report goes on and on for 134 pages.

The directors and coaches of these academies were not at all thrilled about this probing by Double Pass, and now that the ranking is available they try to explain away the firm’s findings by claiming, as is usual in Hungary, that the employees of Double Pass don’t really understand the Hungarian system. Well, let’s put it this way, Double Pass clearly understood that the Hungarian system doesn’t produce winning teams. Hungary is currently host to the annual UEFA European Under-19 Championship. So far, the Hungarian team has lost to Austria (3 to 1) and to Portugal (6 to 1). Sportswriters kept saying that the Hungarians “should have won” against the Austrians but, well, they blew it. The Portuguese  are very good but they won against Israel with only three goals and not six. In brief, the Hungarians under 19 are lousy. And these people are students and graduates of the academies! Hungary might have 33 swanky stadiums by 2018, but the country is unlikely to have fantastic football players.

And while we are on the subject of these new stadiums, an incredible amount of money was spent on the Felcsút project, but weeks ago one could already read that something is very wrong with the drainage of the field. After a heavy rain a game had to be scrapped because the grass would have been damaged otherwise. Nature was blamed: the rain was too heavy. This time the game was played in the rain, and as one of the sportswriters remarked, the game was almost played in a lake. But that is not the only problem. The fancy wooden structure over the spectator seats does not shield people from the rain. The sportswriters with their computers were not exactly happy with the section allocated to them because the rain was coming down on them fast and furious. So, they packed up and went inside to watch the game on the monitor. So much for Viktor Orbán’s efforts so far on behalf of Hungarian football. He seems to be as successful in this endeavor as he is in governing the country.

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nofene
Guest

A small detail: the soccer field is the work of the company owned by the mayor’s brother. And, as it’s no secret, the mayor is Orban’s stooge.
A company without competition, some connections and a lousy job. How strange.

Guest

London Calling!

Poor Puskas, must turning in his grave.

No success to show for all that money.

Obviously Orban needs to throw more money at it. Any Russian Oligarchs around?
Billy no mates Putin needs a friend right now, perhaps he can buy one of the teams?

(I thought it was 47 stadiums – where did I read that?)

As ever I’ve bored myself stupid……yaaaaaawn!

Regards

Charlie

An
Guest

My guess is that Orban may be dreaming of hosting a European or a World Cup one day and that’s why he is building all these stadiums (well, other than providing construction projects for his buddies)..

petofi
Guest

“…that’s why he is building all these stadiums…”

The Felcsutian has a nose for money. I think he’s building the stadiums to develop young talent.
One successful young soccer player can fetch tens of millions of euros when sold to big European teams.

An
Guest

@petofi: The only problem is that stadiums are not developing young talents. I don’t know much about football, but maybe coaching would be a better investment?

PetoFia
Guest

If lies could be sold? These are orban’s only products.
Mr. Petofi, do you agree?

Member

“The “famous” Ferenc Puskás Academy backed by Viktor Orbán was ninth out of twelve! This is the same academy that, according to the prime minister, was among the top ten in Europe!” So which other country made it to the top ten?

Member
My father and one of his brother were good soccer players at their time. Least that is what they told me. THey were not good enough to make it to the top or even close to it, but I remember of the small tournaments between various factories that were played out here and there in the country. I used to go to almost every game when my favourite team played in Budapest. I also visited the Nepstadion if they had an International game. Remember walking home with hundreds of people down to the Keleti Station, and Rakoczi ut. Our family was “thorn” between two teams, Vasas and MTK. I hated when the two teams played against each other. My father said that in their time the kids learned soccer on the streets. Under wwii he and his brother got bread, and some baked goods from the bakery. The baker liked the little Jewish boys kicking the ball. I read about the baker recently on the yellowstarhouses website and told my dad about it. They had no idea about the whole story what went down in the building they lived…. My father and uncle also says that ye believe the only… Read more »
Member

OT
Eva, Would it be possible to allow only people to comment who register with one user name and an email address? I think the quality of comments would improve if at least you could verify that people do not post under various aliases each time. Thanks.

D7 Democrat
Guest

Rather obviously, a spiffing new stadium does not a great footballer make. I suspect Orban’s target with his stadium building mania is two/fold, cash for the business wing of his mafia and, at some time in the future, quite possibly a European Championship. Hungary could cope with that (and it would help his mafia even more having to build the various hotels in soccer hotspots such as, ermm.. Felcsut), whether it would be financially worthwhile is another question but not one which would trouble Our Chief Shepherd too much.

Re player quality, there is a marked reluctance on the part of the football establishment to do the required roots and branch changes needed and was carried out by Germany in 2002 onwards. Why? Ego, corruption, unwillingness to innovate, fear…. all the usual features of why any worthwhile project in Orbanistan fails completely.

Bowen
Guest

Is it a surprise that Hungarian football under Orban isn’t exactly thriving? Someone one wrote that Orban could have made a great football manager, but he likes to change the rules of the game- he has at least 14 players on the field, including two goalkeepers, and the referee is his best friend.

csertői
Guest
Orban will not stop, he will pour tens of billions and billions more into football, especially as most of the money spent on football ends up in the coffers of fideszniks. Until he is prime minister/president he will continue, he is just not one of those lefty politicians who would give up. The strategy of never giving up in anything has worked for him and he thinks will work this time too. I doubt that. He could pour billions of euros in trying to create from scratch an indigenous Hungarian car like Audi or BMW, he would still not succeed. But the best is that average voters value his efforts, despite the ridiculous losses. These voters also like soccer, pálinka and other fickós dolgok. Orban shows that he is one of them, not one of those liberal weakling from Budapest. The people don’t go to watch the games, but they all value stadiums. People would still want Hungary to hold the Olimpics or Football World Championship. To contemplate the opposite, that money would be transferred by a different government from the local stadiums to such things as “liberal theatres and schools for roma” is untenable. After all, it is the… Read more »
HiBoM
Guest
The best thing that could happen to Hungarian football is for all memory of the Aranycsapat to be erased from collective memory. I remember not that long ago seeing a panel discussion of Hungarian experts and the general tone of the discussion was that the 1950s team somehow has given Hungary a unique tradition. It is nonsense of course, the game (and even the physique of the players) is so different that it the events of the 1950s are quite irrelevant. Hungarian football needs rebuilding from scratch and naming all your programmes and stadiums after members of that team is just misguided. But Hungary is not alone in mistaking a glorious past in a sport with entitlement to a glorious present. What probably won’t concern many here is that the latest cuts to the state budget have led to enormous withdrawals of funds from sports such as kayaking where the Hungarians are world-leaders. It illustrates the problems when the state (which in Hungary’s case means Orbán) wants to dictate which sports are successful. But this state-centric view comes as no surprise. In the UK, once the lottery funding system was set up, the various branches of sport effectively compete with… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Stadiums

In the first instance, Vic is scoring large because the buildings are being built by Kozgep or some sister company or other. It’s a form of looting the treasury. As secondary profit, the development of soccer talent…which will later be sold. Of course, in 20 years time, the stadiums will be white elephants (if not sooner).

But as I’ve written in other posts, I’ve always been suspicious of Vic’s intent, and goodwill, toward the country and its people.

Havelaar
Guest

Dear Eva,

According to politics.hu Orban is not very welcome in Washington anymore:

“The reason for bypassing Washington is that Orbán would probably not have been received at the White House, and at the State Department only at the level of deputy assistant state secretary, according to the source”.

Seems like a well deserved insult to me.
I am curious what you think about this.

Havelaar
Guest

“I have the feeling that Orbán’s name is mud in Washington”

Yes…but does he know this? Is this a sign of more to come?

D7 Democrat
Guest

“And it is clear there is very little market for football in Hungary which makes Orbán’s obsession all the more ridiculous.”

If there was even the smallest hint of success to come, that *market* would grow but not in terms of interest for the local teams, more for the international side and Hungarian players abroad.

But as it stands at the moment, the complete lack of awareness with regards longer-term planning will prevent any chance of that success coming.

People don’t stand at the end of their street and marvel at a wonderous new Orban Arena- they may marvel at the skills of local youngsters playing on a dirt-pitch but that’s a different thing entirely.

Member
Those who understand Hungarian will appreciate this little interview and article about the Felcsut stadium from 2007: http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20070926-orban-viktor-lett-a-felcsut-se-elnoke.html An other gem is from last August. The article is furious about all the mumbo-jumbo the opposition an others wrongfully spread. Examples include, Why would this Stadium called gigantic, when the real gig antics stadiums are in Brazil, Peking or San Francisco… THey also take exception when other media questions if is large enough for various International games. Not for a moment the writer(s) understand that what critics are saying is that a 5000 seat stadium is a luxury and a giant considered where it is built, but way too small for the International games Orban wants to score (no pun intended). Under the current rules of the Hungarian Football Federation no NBI games should be played in the stadium, and under the UEFA rules various International games could not take place. Of course there is an answer for Orban, as exceptions can be granted, and just like in a fairy tale, Orban got his exceptions (and extra seat at the World Cup too). P.S.: Eva, I do not see some of our regulars on the Blog, like Paul, Mutt Damon, Bowen,… Read more »
Guest

@Some1:

It’s summer in Hungary (and elsewhere …)!

We also have guests which we show around so I’m not online as often …

tappanch
Guest

New fideszization: MKB Bank. It is voluntary this time.

The Bavarians were happy to sell it to the Hungarian State on the cheap.
The State will give lots of taxpayers’ money to the Bank, then plans to privatize it
(probably to friends and family)

http://www.portfolio.hu/vallalatok/penzugy/bomba_hir_bankot_vesz_a_magyar_allam.201736.html

tappanch
Guest

Angyan’s 6th report about the agricultural land fraud:

http://www.kielegyenafold.hu/documents/2014/VI_jelentes_a_foldrol.docx

gdfxx
Guest

It does not matter whether Orban tries to have good relations with Republicans or others in the US. Generally, foreign policy of the US is based on the interests of the country, not on party orientation. There are hiccups occasionally, but this the general rule.

petofi
Guest

In case people think the US has no interest in Hungarian affairs…you can be damn sure that the US cares if a country is being used as a spearhead into the heart of Europe by Russia…

Ivan
Guest

I’m pretty sure I don’t count as a ‘missing friend’, but I wonder if it’s not the case that others have also just resigned themselves to the situation, tired of punching their way out of a paper bag, tired of not being listened to … resigned to hopelessness in a state that now seems built on that hopelessness, and on air, and on fear (and I refer here to the general population instilling that fear – Fidesz have merely tapped into it). For foreigners, certainly, the game is up, and no further amount of talking about it is going to improve matters.

GW
Guest

gdfxx wrote:

“It does not matter whether Orban tries to have good relations with Republicans or others in the US. Generally, foreign policy of the US is based on the interests of the country, not on party orientation.”

Absolutely, and Orban’s overt and awkward attempts to identify himself and Fidesz with the Republican party during election years has gone noticed and has not been welcomed by either Democrats or Republicans, By creating too close a point of identification with the one party or another, a foreign politician risks putting that party directly in the line of fire should their interests diverge too far from the American foreign policy consensus.

Member

Ivan
July 24, 2014 at 1:50 pm
I’m pretty sure I don’t count as a ‘missing friend’,

You do count as a ‘missing friend’. I was worried that I live some people out off the list. There are many great regular commenters here.

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