Back to Felcsút, the village in which Viktor Orbán grew up. The occasion for the revisit is the news that the Ferenc Puskás Football Academy founded by Viktor Orbán received almost 3 billion forints from private donations. These gifts are encouraged by the latest tax code that allows businesses to deduct gifts to certain sports: football, handball, basketball, water polo, and hockey. Thus, in the form of lost revenues, the government kicks in quite a bit of money to these sports.
Not long ago Heti Válasz published an article about the incredible wealth that has accumulated in the village of Felcsút in the last few years. Visiting the official website of Felcsút, one has the feeling that not much is going on in the place. The website claims that Felcsút has an online paper and urges you to click on the title to read it. Click, click, no newspaper. Under “Services” we find a post office, a pharmacy, a doctor’s office, four small stores that sell mainly food, a nursery, and an establishment where one can rent a room. Almost all of these are located on Fő utca (Main Street).
The village itself is very well maintained. It was during the first Orbán administration that an incredible amount of government money was poured into Felcsút. The Orbán family bought a few hectares of land and built a second home in the village. But perhaps even more important, Viktor Orbán founded with 100,000 forints of his own money a football academy for youngsters which with the permission of Ferenc Puskás’s family was named after the famed Hungarian football player. By now the academy has its own high school, dormitory, museum, several football fields, a wellness hotel, and who knows what else. Most of the buildings were designed by Imre Makowecz. Anyone who would like to learn more about this academy should visit its website which is also available in English and German.
Viktor Orbán’s foundation with its initial capital of 100,000 forints is doing exceedingly well. The Foundation spent at least 600 million forints buying up land to build football fields and is currently planning a stadium designed by Makowecz’s students since the master died about a year ago. Most of the money at the Foundation’s disposal comes from gifts encouraged by the Orbán government tax allowance. It is almost as if it were designed to enrich the Puskás Academy. The possibility of giving untaxed money for sports was introduced in 2011, and among the sports covered not surprisingly football received the most money. Hungarian football in the last year and a half received 21 billion forints while only 7.9 billion forints went to hockey, basketball, water polo, handball, and the Hungarian Olympic Committee combined. So, football is very much favored. After all, supporters know that this sport is the prime minister’s passion and therefore it is natural that the most generous gifts go to the Ferenc Puskás Academy run by the foundation established by Viktor Orbán himself.
In comparison, the other football clubs received relatively little money. The largest amount went to Debrecen (526 million) and the smallest to Győr (158 million). Not that Felcsút’s academy is poor. Far from it. It turns out that besides football Viktor Orbán also likes railroads. Once upon a time there was a railroad station in Felcsút along the Bicske-Székesfehérvár line. This particular line was closed in 1979, and in 2009 it was put up for sale. The academy bought a part of the line between Alcsút-Felcsút and Vértesacsa together with two railroad stations. They immediately began the restoration of the Alcsút-Felcsút building that now functions as a restaurant and hotel. As for the railway, the academy will run “nostalgia train rides” on the line. The line, however, must be restored and this might mean an investment of another 250 million forints. But there is no lack of money in Felcsút
Here are before and after pictures of the Alcsút-Felcsút railroad station.
Lőrinc Mészáros, mayor of Felcsút and director of the Academy, explains all this as the Academy’s contribution to the people who live in the neighborhood of the Academy. It is a public duty to save buildings and to maintain the arboretum nearby. Most of the money, however, is spent on what is basically a business venture. After all, the Puskás Academy is not exactly free. According to someone who knows the situation, the monthly tuition is 50-60,000 forints.
From a map of Felcsút we can see that the land and the buildings of the Academy and the Orbáns’ own property (their house and several hectares of land) are adjacent. Almost as if it were one big holding. Perhaps Viktor Orbán is making a private little football paradise for himself where he can spend his retirement.