Viktor Orbán’s private stadium is completed: “The resurrection of Hungarian football”

The great day is coming. Monday, which is a holiday in Hungary, will not be about the resurrection of Jesus Christ but about the resurrection of Hungarian football. I’m not kidding. This is what György Szöllősi, communication director of the Puskás Academy, said to the hundreds of reporters who showed up for the first tour of the facilities of the Pancho Arena. Why Pancho Arena? Because, as we just learned, this is what the Spaniards called Ferenc Puskás when he was playing for Real Madrid. Mind you, in Hungary everybody knew him as Öcsi Puskás (“öcsi” means younger brother or a really young boy in Hungarian). And while we are on the subject of names, Puskás’s family name until he was ten years old was Purczeld. Yes, one of the Mighty Magyars was of German extraction, a descendant of one of the many German immigrants who settled in Hungary in the early eighteenth century.

I guess the creators of the Pancho Arena in Felcsút, a Hungarian village about 40 km from Budapest, decided on the name because Viktor Orbán, who was already working on making a national superhero out of Ferenc Puskás, decided during his first premiership to name the old Népstadion (built between 1948 and 1952)  after the football legend. So, the Puskás name was already taken. Thus they had to settle for a name that isn’t terribly familiar to Hungarians.

I doubt that Puskás in his youth ever heard of this village. His favorite town was Kispest, where he started to play football. Kispest was a separate town until 1950, when it was incorporated into greater Budapest. Nonetheless, Orbán managed to get all “the Puskás treasures” in the possession of the Puskás family to Felcsút, where the prime minister spent part of his childhood and where he built a weekend house a few years ago. These “treasures,” which include old jerseys, pictures, trophies and other memorabilia, will be on permanent display in the halls of the stadium. Daily guided tours will be available to all who would like to see this “sanctuary” to Ferenc Puskás and football. The description of the arena as a sanctuary also comes from the Academy’s communication director.

The sports reporters were clearly in awe of the excellent conditions created in Felcsút for the sport. I’m also sure that they are looking forward to reporting from the press box equipped with all the latest marvels of modern technology. They lauded the turf that is being watered and heated from below ground.

Journalists who deal with political matters were less enthusiastic. They made sarcastic remarks about the man who is able to satisfy all his whims because of his position of power. They can’t quite get over the fact that such a large and ostentatious stadium, which will be able to seat 3,600, is being built in a village of 1,800 people. Index calculated that each individual inhabitant of Felcsút received 3.77 million “football” forints. One old peasant woman who was interviewed kept emphasizing that the erection of such a stadium is a real joy for the Felcsútians because “after all, the building will remain here.” But this is exactly what worries the critics. What will happen whenViktor Orbán is no longer the prime minister or when he is no longer, period? What will happen to this stadium? The same thing that happened to the one Nicolae Ceaușescu built in his birth place, the village of Scornicesti, which now stands empty and crumbling? Moreover, what can one say about the leader of an allegedly democratic country who allows a football stadium that is supposed to be an exhibition piece to be built in his backyard? Indeed, a valid comparison can be made between the Romanian dictator and Viktor Orbán. This is what a blogger was alluding to when he gave this title to his post on the stadium: “Santiago Orbaneu: Ilyen lett a felcsúti stadion.” (This is how the stadium in Felcsút turned out.)

Felcsut stadium1

Photo László Döme / pfla.hu

There are several boxes, complete with I assume well-stocked bars for those who either “deserve them” or can afford them. One box belongs to Viktor Orbán and his guests. The plaque next to the door reads: “The prime minister’s office.” That aroused the interest of the journalists, but it turned out that the plaque is somewhat misleading. It is the private box of the founder of the Puskás Academy, Viktor Orbán. It will be his as long as he lives. Another box is designated for “local entrepreneurs.” I guess it is reserved for Viktor Orbán’s front men in Felcsút.

In the VIP section the seats are apparently made out of real leather, and the lucky ones who sit there can watch game replays in slow motion on monitors attached to the backs of chairs in front of them. I’m not sure how well these leather chairs will stand up to nature’s vicissitudes and the inevitable stains.

Photo Läszló Döme / pfla.hu

Photo László Döme / pfla.hu

The elaborate wooden structure will also be difficult to keep in tip-top shape. And the copper roofs in no time will tarnish. In brief, the upkeep of the structure will be enormous. What will happen if the flow of money that is coming in now due to the founder’s position stops? Because, although perhaps Viktor Orbán doesn’t want to face the fact, financial supporters of his hobby will drop him once he is no longer of use to them. Once Viktor Orbán is out of office–because it will happen one day regardless of what some pessimistic people say–I doubt that a new Hungarian government will pick up the tab.

Source: Nëpszabadság

Those leather chairs / Source: Népszabadság

On Monday at the opening ceremony there will be the usual speeches. Two of the stars of the show will be former president Pál Schmitt, an Olympic champion and member of the International Olympic Committee, and Ángel Maria Villar, president of the Spanish Football Association and vice president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. The former had to resign in disgrace because of plagiarism and the latter’s reputation is marred by his possible involvement in corruption cases. What a pair!

The communication director of the Puskás Academy admitted that decent people no longer go to watch football, but he predicted that “on Monday the change of regime of Hungarian football will begin.” Critics of Orbán’s football mania very much doubt it. They consider every penny spent on stadiums a waste of limited resources. And the stadium at Felcsút a disgrace that speaks volumes about Viktor Orbán and the regime he has built.

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75 comments

  1. latefor :

    @ Eva – I had no idea that he was an anti-Semite. What did he do or say?

    A vicious anti-Semite. I remember an interview with him shortly before his death. It was shocking. I will try to find it but I urge everybody else to look for this interview. It helps me.

  2. Thanks Eva.

    @bbogg – Yes, I’m “pretty smart”, but I’m NOT a troll. I’ve been reading this blog since the very beginning and commenting on and off, depending on my interest in the subject matter. Calling somebody a troll is NOT nice, however I admit that I do NOT have a sheep mentality and I like to make up my own mind about various issues. (Damn this “paraszt” esz!)

  3. @latefor: see here
    http://www.atv.hu/belfold/20110508_makovecz_senkinek_semmi_koze_az_orban_viktorral_valo_viszonyomhoz

    The man certainly was a right-wing reactionary, which in Hungary almost always means an antisemite. And a devout Orbánite, running point in the Kulturkampf with the MMA. The mutual attraction is quite understandable: let’s call it a certain idea of ‘magyar-ness’…

    However for my part, I reserve the right to admire his works, while resenting his politics (both general and cultural). Some artists are great as lone rebels – yet one wouldn’t want a world in which their views has become the doxa.

  4. Somehow I doubt that Orbán will lack the financial wherewithal to keep the Pancho spic and span for many years to come, should “the financial supporters of his hobby” ever “drop him.” By the time he decides to pass on the reins of power, four generations of Orbáns will be very wealthy indeed.

  5. @Marcel De – Thanks, I’ve read the article….he was a bit abrupt or shall I say strongly opinionated….whatever….he was a cranky type, I guess. Politics aside, I also like and admire his unique, creative style. I believe that he restored the church in Kakasd (next to Szekszard) I visited two years ago on my way to Pecs. I remember seeing that church the first time when I was about ten years old and even than I was very impressed with its history and distinctive design.(This particular church must have left a great impact on him.)

  6. Re: my previous post – I was wrong. He designed that building in Kakasd in the l980’s! (I must have remembered the “swab” church.) I have to say that this building stops everybody who drives through Kakasd!

  7. latefor :

    @Marcel De – Thanks, I’ve read the article….he was a bit abrupt or shall I say strongly opinionated….whatever….he was a cranky type, I guess. Politics aside, I also like and admire his unique, creative style. I believe that he restored the church in Kakasd (next to Szekszard) I visited two years ago on my way to Pecs. I remember seeing that church the first time when I was about ten years old and even than I was very impressed with its history and distinctive design.(This particular church must have left a great impact on him.)

    Well, it is more than just the ranting of a cranky old fellow.

  8. Here is something who really hates Makovecz’s work: Endre Aczél. In Galamus today:

    Az érdekes viszont nem az, hogy az ékszerdobozként ünnepelt, ismétlem, építészeti szörny (a 4-es metró két állomásának ifjú magyar tervezői bebizonyították, hogy igenis van magyar, sőt nemzetközileg elismert, kitüntetett építészet Makovecz tornyain, szélkakasain, unalomig ismert tetőkompozícióin, organikusnak álcázott borzalmain túl is) húsvét hétfőn ünnepélyes fölavatásban részesül, hanem az, hogy a PFLA egy Patyomkin-teremtény. NB1-es csapatában nem kinevelt „akadémikusok”, hanem kiöregedett klubidegen éljátékosok és hatodrangú külföldi importok játszanak. Jellemző a nevelés hatékonyságára, hogy abban a kiváló U–18-as magyar válogatottban, illetve annak a keretében, amely Gibraltárral szemben (röhögés, nem tapsra) „kiharcolt” a minap egy 2–2-es döntetlent, írd és mondd, mindösszesen 2 (kettő) Orbán-akadémikus szerepelt. Úgyhogy az egész PFLA a maga ötcsillagos létesítményeivel, szolgáltatásaival egy hatalmas szarhalom, amelynek a produktuma épp annyi, mint amennyit a fehérvári meccsen a lábával szavazó közönség felmutatott.

    “Architectural monster,” “the same old boring roof compositions” “horrors masked as organic” etc.

  9. The galamus article is a masterpiece.

    A „Puskás Ferenc Labdarúgó Akadémia” (PFLA) alapítója maga Orbán. Az ő hívei/kitartottjai/pártfogoltjai gründolták össze a háza mellé azt a közel 4 milliárd forintot, amibe a húsvét hétfőjén felavatandó „Pancho Aréna” került. Érdekelne, hogy egy ilyen ötvenes nézőszámmal a Makovecz Imre által megálmodott antifunkcionális építészeti szörny mikor fogja behozni az árát. Bár. Be kéne hoznia? Miért is? „Holnaptól” ott játssza a mérkőzéseit a szebb napokat látott – bár épp bajnoki esélyeitől búcsúzó – Videoton, amelynek tulajdonosa, Garancsi István csak visszacsöpögtet valamennyit abból az ötvenmilliárdból, amit Orbánék jóvoltából egy trükkös földgázüzletből „lenyúltak”. Nem?

    http://www.galamuscsoport.hu/tartalom/cikk/375589_minden_ami_orban

  10. Many of Makovecz’ buildings are just kitch pure and simple.

    “Organic” style is certainly not sustainable (imagine the forest that was clear cut for this stadium only) and it is very-very schematic. In that I have to agree with Aczel.

  11. Kitsch as Kitsch can be …

    is not strong enough for these monstrosities!

    One of these things would have been enough – but to use the same concept over and over again?

    It almost makes me want to throw up. I’m glad that there’s none of these constructions near to where we live, to see them every day must be horrible!

  12. Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :
    However for my part, I reserve the right to admire his works, while resenting his politics (both general and cultural). Some artists are great as lone rebels – yet one wouldn’t want a world in which their views has become the doxa.

    My problem with Makovecz that I do not see anything “organic” in his designs. I was not a fan of Marcell Jankovics either. The kind of “magyarkodas” and/or gives me the chills. Inteestingly with Endre Szasz’s art actually what I like is the pieces where he used Hungarian motives. With Makovecz, just as I mentioned, I really feel he should of became a set designer because his building and houses look like something for Teletubby or Lord of the Rings. It is not that it is no interesting, and likely he could of win several awards for set design, but in real life, thrown into real environment his designs are intimidating, and outright scary. At least that is how I see it. Then again, there are many who love his stuff.

  13. latefor :
    @Marcel De – Thanks, I’ve read the article….he was a bit abrupt or shall I say strongly opinionated….whatever….he was a cranky type, I guess. Politics aside, I also like and admire his unique, creative style. I believe that he restored the church in Kakasd (next to Szekszard) I visited two years ago on my way to Pecs. I remember seeing that church the first time when I was about ten years old and even than I was very impressed with its history and distinctive design.(This particular church must have left a great impact on him.)

    Here is the problem. This is what you said:
    April 19, 2014 at 6:29 pm | #42 Quote
    I’ve just fallen in love with (after extensive search) the architectural style of the late Imre Makovecz. What an amazingly unique talent he was, I am speechless! This is what I’d call architecture with character!
    _______

    Now, here is my question: You have just fallen in love after extensive research after reading the blog entry or was this falling in love was a gradual process of the last few decades?

    No need to reply.

  14. @Some1 – OK, OK…maybe I shouldn’t have said “extensive ” research, because I’ve obviously missed that he was a strongly opinionated right winger. He had no regards for the poor peasants either who were lifted out of poverty by the communists during the 1950’s and were able to send their children to study for the first time.(my mother and some of my relatives fall into this category.)

    Your are stating the following:
    “Now, here is my question: You have just fallen in love after extensive research after reading the blog entry or was this falling in love was a gradual process of the last few decades?

    No need to reply.”

    I do NOT like your provocative comment. You can rubbish his work as much as you want, I still like his designs, politics aside.

  15. I have just discovered that the “Sio Csarda’, outside Szekszard was also designed by Makovicz in the mid l960’s. I used to go there with my family when I was a child, across the Danube for a fish soup every summer. I guess “Some1” is right. I was an admirer of his creations for a long time (forgetting his name) and I’m grateful to Eva for bringing his work once again to my attention.

  16. Makovicz ‘s structures remind me of Disneyland and the original Bavarian castle Neuschwanstein a bit – everything looks fake to an adult, but really romantic to a child(ish person …), I’m sorry to say.

  17. When I read “Pancho Arena” the first time I immediately thought it should be Sancho Panza Arena …

    Completely OT (or not?):

    Did you know that Kafka also wrote a piece on Sancho Pansa? Maybe that’s even more fitting than the original novel by Cervantes …

  18. Eva S. Balogh :
    Well, some people love it, others hate it. But I think one ought to take a look at all his works and the monotony of them is numbing. Also, it is too bad that he was such an awful person. Rabid anti-Semite. Some of the stuff he said was outright embarrassing.

    Of course I will not admit this to my friends, but I like a lot of his work. I agree that he didn’t have much variety in his style, but since the buildings were not usually near one another, it doesn’t matter much, and we can now identify most of his work without having to do any research. I feel that perhaps he would have created more timeless work if he had not been given a free hand to do whatever he wanted. Perhaps I’m wrong, and what we see is more restrained that what he wanted to do. Still there are many beautiful lines in his buildings, and I applaud his use of natural materials. The Hattyú Ház is a great example of how a little restraint could have resulted in a truly magnificent building that is full of interesting nooks and crannies. Less rough-cut stone would have been nice, for a start, and a less-cramped lobby, but it is still a very nice place to spend time exploring.

    The Pázmány Péter Catholic University, where the main entrance is slanted as if the building is toppling into itself, was a terrible idea, though I applaud the attempt at dynamism. Unfortunately, it isn’t attractive, just jarring, and gives Hungarian craftsmanship a bad name. Anyone who sees it might assume that Hungarians just can’t build a structure properly. Now that we know that the area is in earthquake country, it even qualifies as being in bad taste.

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