Generous gifts with government assistance to Viktor Orbán’s football academy

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.

Alcsút-Felcsút railroad station, 2006.02.25
Photo by Csaba Faltusz / http://www.vasutallomasok.hu

Alcsút-Felcsút railroad station restored, 2012.12.12
Photo by Nándor Somay / http://www.vasutallomasok.hu

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.

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61 comments

  1. wolfi :

    It was funny in a way but also sad when they [relatives from the US] visited us last year:

    When the children had a request in the restaurant, they asked me in English and I translated it into German for my wife who addressed the waitress in Hungarian – they couldn’t say much more than köszönöm in their parents’ tongue …

    Well, the USA has always profited from that brain drain – just look at this years Nobel Prize winners.

    Yes, there are some people who don’t pay enough attention to bringing up the children bilingual when it can be actually a real asset later in life. I remember a really idiotic couple in which the husband (a real anti-communist maniac in the 60s and 70s) insisted that the family must speak English at home. Both of them (especially the wife who came to the US later) had very heavy accents and their grammars were not always impeccable. Two young boys. One of them became a really bad stutterer.

    On the other hand, I know families where the children bi- or trilingual and they spent their summers working in Hungary, either at the US Embassy or other governmental organizations where perfect knowledge of both English and Hungarian is practically mandatory.

  2. Bernard De Raadt :
    your best investment is in yourself learn a second language please not russian or a third chinese for examplevisit other countries keep good friends and cultivate them enjoy your stay on this planet time is short tell a joke at least once a day never take life to seriously,this example was how my friend gyula nagy fay got to live 105 good years even as an expatriate enemy of the hungarian people because he was a land owner.

    You could make a start by learning English.

  3. Right now I can’t find the conversation about the color of the railroad station at Alcsút-Felcsút. Perhaps Spectator called it Jesus Christ yellow. Or was it Charlie? Let me add my own two-cents worth on the subject.

    I think in Hungarian this color is called “Maria Theresa yellow.” Or actually ochre. For one reason or other all official government buildings during the Monarchy were painted that color. Most likely the restored railroad station’s color is not genuine. The color we can see on the old picture was most likely “Maria Theresa ochre faded.” The restorer would have been better off to stick to that color because whether one likes this color or not when it comes to authentic restoration one ought to follow the tradition.

    By the way this ochre-color can be observed in all the areas of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and it gives a certain unity to the whole region.

  4. London Calling!

    Thank you Eva – Maria Theresa yellow!

    I wasn’t far off! What you say is very interesting – and explains the ‘Yellow-out’ of much of Győr- and all those churches.

    I have to confess my ‘Jesus Christ Yellow’ designation is slightly exclamatory when I come across yet another yellow church.

    I am not used to such a uniform colour scheme – in England we enjoy all the beauty and variety of brick – which is much easier to maintain – and is more difficult for graffito merchants.

    Such vast expanses of yellow church would be an invitation, and temptation, to so-called street artists – and I am surprised that the Hungarian churches remain free of the curse.

    And yes, I agree, the restoration of the station would have been more successful with a more faded version of the colour – it will take years to look mellow and ‘dishabille’.

    The dangers of over-restoration.

    (But in fairness I must re-iterate – they have done a fantastic job on the windows!)

    I am a little suspicious of the interior restoration though – they appear to have ripped (all?) the chimneys out. So is it all wallboard and MDF?

    I suspect so.

    Regards

    Charlie

  5. Well, it wasn’t my intention to stir up sentiments regarding the building, it was a sidetrack, you see – however, thanks for the comments.
    I guess, that the ‘Maria Theresa yellow’ was commonly referred to as ‘castle yellow’ too, and for roofing they used grey or reddish-brown slate. There is quite a number of images floating around on the web – for some reason I can’t link right now.

    After all, taste seldom comes with money, as it clearly the case here.

  6. London Calling!

    Spectator – stir up sentiments. They are so revealing. And your observations are so true.

    Eva’s blog is for all things Hungarian – and she allows us to contribute to her main themes.

    One of the rich pleasures of this site is the O/T topics. – And the humour! – And the wisdom.

    As long as we don’t re-rail the main theme – the O’T’s give such an insight to the Hungarian psyche and culture.

    Long may they remain so if Eva doesn’t mind.

    – after all it’s called ‘Spectrum’ – Hungarian Spectrum.

    Regards

    Charlie

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