Sopron is famous for two things. Well two things in my head. Firstly, Soproni. Soproni is one of Hungary’s most preeminent beers (owned of course by that great Hungarian company, Heineken). Secondly, providing further proof that allowing the people a say in anything of any importance is a mistake. Following the controversial Treaty of St Germain signed by the Austrian part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in 1919 (not coincidentally Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye is located very close to the Grand Trianon Palace at Versailles where the Hungarian part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire signed the Treaty of Trianon in 1920), Sopron was awarded to the Austrians, who said f’’’ that for a name, we will call this town, Ödenburg. (It is probably worth pointing out that being a negotiator on behalf of an Allied nation in the period 1918 to 1920 was probably a pretty good gig.) The Hungarian residents of Ödenburg did not take well to this renaming, quite rightly pointing out that the Germans should stop calling every town outside their territory Something-berg and come up with something more original. The Austrians had no sense of humour so given the choice between locking the whole of Sopron in a basement and a referendum, they said that the people of Soproni could have a plebiscite. And plebiscite they did with some 65% deciding to rejoin Hungary, which was about to go through about 80 years of war, oppression and subjecation at the hands of the German Germans, the Russians and sometimes themselves. Still, I assume that they got that EUR 350mn a year that they paid into the Vienna budget back. That aside, life was indeed no picnic until 1989 when the locals decided to have a massive picnic with all their German mates who realised that they loved each other after all and after a glass or two of the local wine decided it was time to tear down the iron curtain. This may be a vast simplifcation of the matter, but Sopron did indeed host the so-called Pan-European Picnic that was seen as a milestone on the road to German reunification.
So much Sopron information.
Those of you more knowledgeable about the make-up of the Hungarian league may well ask why I am in Sopron (despite provifing me with the opportunity to spit out these facts) when MTK are away at nearby Szombathely for the latest round of the Hungarian league. Szombathley Haladas are the latest team to be granted a new football stadium so have been transplanted to nearby Sopron (and the former home of now bankrupt FC Sopron (is there a lesson here?)). I scoffed at a 150 minutes train journey in the pursuit of the Pet Shop Boys for the chance to see what has become known as the Dental Capital of the World by Wikipedia.
Rolling off the train at lunchtime gave me enough time to have a whistestop tour of the town before stopping at a local Czech pub for a portion of Deep Fried Cheese. Shudder. The town seemed nice enough with a pleasant medieval centre, but a dangerous smattering of Austrians muttering something about reclaiming what is theirs. My German is not great. For a provincial Hungarian town, it was pretty busy. Usually, these places seem to be bereft of life (Gyor, Nyiregyhaza and Szombathely), but less so Sopron.
Glad I do not have to change the light bulbs.
The stadium is a ten minute walk from the centre. Everything in Sopron is ten minutes walk from the centre, but finding the away entrance took another ten minutes. The police were pretty useless when my perfectly formed Hungarian sentences was met with bemusement. Eventually, I found it tucked away, unsigned between the back of a sports centre and a small brook. I was the first one there! Which 15 minutes before kick-off was slightly worrying.
No idea how I missed the away entrance.
The ground had two largeish stands along either side of the pitch. One was covered. One end of the stadium was open and the other housed a pig-ugly early 90s shopping centre called Stadium Aruhaz (Mall or Department Store). The away section was (obviously) in one corner of the uncovered stand, surrounded with a barbed wire topped fence (presumably made from all the fence material that had been around this area). We did have a little refreshment stand; however, for the first time in Hungary, there were no cups to be taken into the stand. From my basic Hungarian, I understood this was due to the last visitors going a bit mental and throwing lots of cups on the pitch. And the last visitors were…Ferencvaros. I bought my beer and drank it under the stand until just before kick-off. In total, we numbered 16 in the away including two children who probably only count as one person. Still not my lowest away support which was Szombathely where we were 11 and Gyor where we were 15.
Hali (as the home side call themselves) have been havign a good season so far with a backbone of a team consisting of the pajama king goalkeeper, Kiraly Gabor, Halmosi, Nemeth and Williams. Fortunately, all these players were out so MTK might have a chance of winning for the first time on the road since 17 October 2015! After 6 minutes, Vogyicska (one of the young midfielders who is getting game time) burst through, but hit the ball straight at the keeper when it was probably easier to score. Five minutes later, Hali led. A slip by a defender permitted a swift counterattack, the ball found itself to Gaal, who buried from about 10 metres out. Hmm. This was a long way to come for a beating.
Beautiful place for a beer. Probably could kip the night here.
Then I remembered we had Torghelle who was totally unmarked to head home just four minutes later. Game on. Actually, that was the last of the scoring. MTK were unlucky with Torghelle being hauled down (seemingly) when clean through before half time, Kanta hitting the bar in the second and Vadnai screwing wide wit ha great chance. It wasn’t a win, but it was a certainly a good point and a solid performance. An exciting cameo at the end from Szatmari Istvan who looks like a young, clean shaven viking suggests we may have more talent coming through.
I rushed back to the station and onto the last train out of town clutching a point in my pocket. It was the first time I have actually been given responsibility for taking the actual point back to Budapest, but I did a good job.
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