I am not sure when I started disliking Ferencvaros. Possibly the first time I came to Budapest and having to catch a taxi past the ugly monstrosity of the old Florian Albert Stadion (as you may have noticed if you were any good at football in the 50s in Hungary, you probably now have a stadium named after you). Possibly when I tried to go and watch my first game in Hungary, but to be denied a ticket by an unhelpful security guard because I did not have a hooligan card. Possibly when I realised that most of the supporters seem to possess the arrogance of Man United fans, but bereft of any recent success to back that up. Definitely when I noticed that the Fradi (Ferencvaros’ nickname) salute would not have been out of place in much of 1930s Mittel Europa.
Everyone who seems to like Hungarian football seems to support Ferencvaros (I accept that this is a Budapest centric view). They have a brand spanking new stadium (although the supporters continue to trickle to the games in smaller and smaller numbers) and Ferencavros badges seem to adorn half of Budapest’s taxis. Much like Spartak Moscow, they are seen as the People’s Team. Much like Spartak, I dislike them (partially) because of this. Untainted by the Communism (MTK were the team of the secret police and Honved of the army), they also seem to revile in the revisionist, populist politics that dogs the right of Hungarian politics. Let’s call it a Hungarian club for Hungarians.
On the other hand, MTK have always tended to represent Budapest’s Jewish population. The rivalry reached its heyday (along with Europe’s anti-Semitism) between 1917 and 1938 when MTK and Fradi shared 18 of 22 Championships (MTK won 12 J). The rivalry embodied the growing rise of the Far Right in Hungary as explained by George Eisen in his paper “Jewish History and the Ideology of Modern Sport: Approaches and Interpretations”:
“the fabled rivalry between two Hungarian soccer teams during the inter-war period:
one representing the nationalistic elements of the Hungarian right (FTC, green-and-
white) and the other associated with “Jewish interest” (MTK, blue-and-white).
In describing the playing style of the former, observers frequently employed
adjectives such as “team with a fighting heart” and representing the “Hungarian
heart,” while the “Jewish” team was characterized as playing intelligently, “with
brain.” The symbolism in this stereotyping is unmistakable; the Jewish brain is at
MTK was indeed shut down in the 40s under certain Racial Origin Laws. On top of the Jewish vs. Hungarian (to put it in its most crude terms), it is fairly commonly accepted that much like the Boca-River rivalry, MTK represented the bourgeoisie and elite whereas Fradi were for the working class. Nevertheless, it was revived by the Communists after WWII, but has always struggled for attendances since the end of WWII, no doubt due to a toxic combination of being a Jewish club in a fairly anti-Semitic country, a bourgeoise club in a Socialist Paradise(!) and the undeniable fact that much of its support base in all likelihood perished at the hands of the evils that struck Europe at that time.
MTK-Fradi was long ago surpassed by Fradi-Ujpest as the derby of Budapest. MTK just did not have the volume of fans to give Fradi a fight so the hooligans of Fradi set their sights on Ujpest, a game that is by far and away the most heavily policed in Hungarian football. That said there are still strict restrictions on ticket sales with no ticket sales available on the day of the game. Of course, this results in a few hundred potential MTK supporters being stranded outside the stadium, probably cursing their decision to come and driving away unlikely to ever return to a Hungarian football match. Nice one MLSZ (the Hungarian FA).
This was my second Örökrangadó (Eternal Derby). The first being a 3-2 classic in favour of MTK. We got lucky on that day thanks to some generous refereeing and some general rub of the green. I am not used to getting such luck go my way in derby games so I was not expecting it to last.
Unfortunately, this game was not a classic. Yet again it was disappointing turn out. 948 spectators versus 5,500 the previous year. No doubt the draconian ticketing rules were not helping. In addition, to the no tickets on the day, all Fradi fans were forced to travel on sanctioned buses with anyone not turning up as such refused entry. It also represented the last game before the dawn of the dreaded szurkoloi kartya (supporter card), which was about to blight the Hungarian football fan’s football experience (more on this to come in a subsequent blog).
The game was hard fought and one in which MTK probably got the result they deserved. Poor Patrick (the one who waved from the bus) bundling in a scrappy corner before German Benjamin Lauth ghosted in unmarked at a corner to nod home an equaliser. Undoubted highlight was Ferencvaros manager, Thomas Doll (of Dortmund fame) slicing an attempted control into the MTK bench nearly wiping out a couple of substitutes. Why do Germans never do that when they actually play?
Second half was again a bit of a damp squib. Both teams not seeming to realise that this was a life-or-death matter to all those in attendance – possibly they were also underwhelmed by the attendance. Ferencvaros fans even resorted to fighting amongst themselves to relieve their hooligan tendencies. All of a sudden, Vass Patrick (a younger, shorter Aaron Lennon) finds a whole load of space in the inside right position to lay the ball off to the Doctor who hasn’t had an easier goal since the last one he scored against Debrecen. 2-1 MTK. Queue a frantic finale as Böde Daniel did his impression of a really sh’t Grant Holt and MTK send their fans home in raptures.
A note to teams with inexplicable third shirts…
MTK wear a limited edition shirt for the home Örökrangadó every year. Boo, modern football! But wait, the shirts are then auctioned with all proceeds going to charity. This news had doubly cheered me up the previous year when MTK turned up looking like Huddersfield and I lived in fear that the blue sash had been ditched for eternity.