I don’t follow football, or soccer as it is called around here. Of course, I know that the performance of Hungarian football teams is abysmal and that the Hungarian prime minister spends billions of forints on stadiums that are practically empty. And naturally I know a lot about the stadium Viktor Orbán built right next to his country house in Felcsút. The stadium seats almost 4,000 people. Felcsút has a population of 1,600.
Viktor Orbán’s pet project, handsomely financed by taxpayer money, is the Ferenc Puskás Football Academy which, in the founder’s opinion, is among the top ten best academies in Europe. According to a less biased assessment, of the twelve Hungarian academies the Puskás Academy ranks ninth.
After Viktor Orbán delivered his “speech to the nation” on Friday, he went directly to Felcsút to watch the first match of the season. While there, he gave an interview to the communication director of the Academy.
What did I, a soccer know-nothing, learn from the prime minister? For starters, that the Puskás team is very weak. Naturally, Viktor Orbán said nothing of the sort, but one couldn’t help but be suspicious when he repeated several times that the emphasis in Felcsút is not on the team’s performance because, after all, it is an academy. The important thing is “teaching the students to play football.”
I also came to the conclusion that the Puskás team would be beaten every weekend if they did not hire outside, older players: Attila Fiola (25) and Attila Polonkai (36). Naturally, this is not exactly what Orbán said. He only mused about the adverse psychological effects of losing every weekend.
I also learned that Orbán is worried about the possibility of the team’s losing its standing in the top tier of the National Championship (NB1), which would not be “worthy of the heritage of Ferenc Puskás.”
During the interview it also became clear that the fancy Felcsút stadium and the Puskás team attract very few spectators. Only once was the stadium full: at the opening ceremony. I was happy to learn, however, that according to Orbán “it doesn’t really matter how many spectators we have…. We don’t have fans. We have an academy.”
Also, there seems to be a fear that the low attendance has something to do with people’s political antipathy toward Viktor Orbán. The prime minister had to agree. In his opinion, the Academy and its team are frequently attacked unfairly on account of him, attacks that “are very hard to bear.” Therefore, he has the highest respect for the players. I wonder what kinds of attacks these players have to endure. We learned only that the fans of Vasas FC “sent [Orbán] in a most vulgar manner to a warmer climate.”
That’s what I learned from the interview. Since reading it, I found out that on the average there are 1,000 spectators at the Felcsút games, which (using admittedly spurious math) comes out to 3.47 million forints per spectator from taxpayer money. Another interesting bit of information I picked up was that Orbán after all must be bothered by the low turnout. Because otherwise why would it be necessary to offer free bus rides to fans from seven close-by towns and villages?
In brief, the Academy and its stadium are a flop.