Last Saturday’s much anticipated fixture in the Hungarian top flight saw title holders Budapest Honvéd host fierce rivals Ferencváros – two giants of the domestic game. I decided to visit the Bozsik Stadion and sit amongst the home fans for match.
It rained throughout the whole day, reminding us that the summer is over and autumn is dawning upon us. Honvéd fans were gathering at Határ Út – a major junction in Kispest from where the tram leaves to Bozsik Stadion, their home ground. Throughout the journey and the walk up to the stadium you could sense the tense feeling lingering in the air. The home fans knew that this game would not be an easy one. Despite Honvéd being the reigning champions, a change of manager and backroom staff meant that the team had not been able to replicate the performances of last season so far. Outside their ground local street vendors were selling merchandise (often counterfeits) and sunflower seeds (szotyi) – the latter being a typical snack at football matches throughout Eastern Europe. I took my seat on the third row of the main stand near the halfway line. Stadiums like these are very rudimentary: Seats – which are right angled plastic moulds – are placed on concrete steps. During the pre-match build up fans were eagerly discussing tactics and latest results. Murmurs of league leaders Videoton losing to Vasas circled around the home ground. A win could put Honvéd within touching distance of them.
Before the game started the announcer read off the names of the starters off a piece of paper infront of the crowd. The Honvéd fans cheered the names of their own players. The announcement of Endre Botka of Ferencváros was followed by a ring of boos. He is not a popular figure in these parts of Kispest following his controversial transfer from Honvéd to Ferencváros in January 2017.
Transfer dealings between the two clubs is very rare, especially involving long-time servants and home grown players like Botka.
The home crowd was soon silenced after in form Roland Varga beat defender David Bobal to Lovrencsics’s cross in the 6th minute. Honvéd soon tried to assert their dominance over Ferencváros and kept the visitors hemmed into their own half. Nevertheless the spirit of the home side was not dampened and the fans kept chanting “Csak a Kispest!” (Just the Kispest). Despite creating the most chances only by a converted penalty in the 33rd minute by Davide Lanzafame were they able to draw level.
The beginning of the second half was almost a carbon copy of the first one as a Varga beat Bobál once again to a cross early on. However unlike before Honvéd were unable to create chances and Ferencváros had maintained bulk of the possession.
A small fight occurred in one of the Honvéd stands where security officers had to intervene. Later it turned out that Botka’s brother was in the Honvéd sector and could not take the abuse his brother got when he collapsed on the floor after a collision with Bobál and was lying there motionless. Even though most of the crowd were in panic during this point of the game, a small minority were still throwing abuse. Throughout the game he was on the receiving end of chants like “Buzi Botka” (Gay Botka) and some went to the extent of demanding his death. While this kind of behaviour is very rare in the Western world, conduct like this this is very common in Eastern Europe.
Ferencváros scored again in the 68th minute through a cross by Botka to Joseph Paintsil who slotted it home, thus putting the game further out of reach of Honvéd.
In the 72nd minute Botka received his second yellow and was jeered off the pitch by Honvéd fans. A 10 man Ferencváros were less able to dominate. However despite creating a lot of chances in the latter parts of the game the home side was not able to score. The game finished 3-1. From the match it was clear that this Honvéd side does not gel as it did last year and Ferencváros are more than ready to challenge for the title. After the game fans slowly made their way towards the exits in the heavy downpour that started in the last 10 minutes of the game. However the spirits of the home fans were high. They kept chanting and singing home on the tram and on the streets. The tram driver was blowing the horn to the rhythm of the songs as he took them towards the city centre where they disperse into Budapest.