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. Like Eva said the costs for the upkeep will tremendous, and not only for this stadium, but for all other ones. I will look forward to the next Olympic summer games, and will watch less medals for the Hungarian team, compared to the one in England. Who is to blame than? The rest of the sports receive less money than soccer.

    Also I understand that the Puskas Academia purchased a 32 year soccer player for the remainder of the season. What about the other young “talents”, which suppose to be educated at the Academia.

  2. It looks like a magnificent structure, credit to the architect with great imagination! Hopefully it will bring in lots of tourist dollars for Hungary.

  3. Maybe some of the homeless of Hungary (who are not yet been arrested these days) could be given space to sit around in the Stadium when there will still be ample space after all the inhabitants of Orbanfalu are seated.

  4. Copper roofs, unlike copper cookware, are meant to “tarnish”, to turn green. Examples can be found on the railway hotels throughout Canada — here, in Quebec City, with ridged-seam construction. Lovely patina.

    One concern less, then.

  5. The felcsut stadion will remain an architectural monster like the national theatre.
    They are beautiful only to some orbanists in orbanistan.
    Poor Horthy has not left any personal monuments to the ungrateful nation.

  6. It is shame that name of Puskás is being soiled with such tawdry triumphalism as that displayed by Orbán. The ‘Galloping Major’ is such a geniune legend that his name should not be so politicized in this manner. As a small counter-weight, may I refer readers to this delightful story about the time Puskás played a charity match in Liverpool. He displayed more decency and humility in that one small appearance than Orbán ever will.

    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2011/nov/17/the-forgotten-story-ferenc-puskas-merseyside

  7. Orban will disappear sooner or later and then the flow of money to this village will stop, although his kids will inherit untold billions so they can perhaps finance this monument to megalomania and craziness.

    This structure will end up like the corresponding village football stadium in Ceausescu’s (Romania crazy dictator) place of birth or the stadium at Akasztó, which was a somewhat cheaper but similarly crazy stadium in a minor village which – after its owner spent many years in prison and lost his fortune – has not been in use for at least 15 years.

    The Hungarian football is pathetic, yesterday the Puskas Academy (for which club this stadium was built) vs. Pécs game there were 200 (two hundred) attendants and this is a usual number.

    If there is one article you read in Hungarian let this be it (link below). It was written by someone who loves football and traveled around the world so that he is able to evaluate this ‘fantastic design achievement’ and even speaks Spanish so has an intimate knowledge of the ‘Pancho-issue’.

    http://444.hu/2014/04/17/megmondtam-kisfiam-hogy-barmit-kerhetsz/

  8. Here is another Potemkin operation at 15:50.

    The mayor presented fake fostered workers (közmunkás) to the German television.
    But their cameras have long ears, so they recorded the mayor chatting about the deception.

  9. @tappanch: Regarding #10 Would you be kind to let us know what are they saying? I can’t properly hear it, and my German is not so great. THanks.

  10. Wondercat :
    Copper roofs, unlike copper cookware, are meant to “tarnish”, to turn green

    After making a wrong turn I ran into the stadium a few weeks ago. It really is something to see and the cooper roof once green will only add to the structure. I’ve been told by a (very competent) physiotherapist that now does some work there that the facilities have everything. It is certainly more lavish than the academy in Debrecen. This maybe a questionable expenditure but now that it is done one would hope that it will be put to good use. As for its impact on hungarian football…. My guess is you will see a difference in about 10 years.

  11. Belgium did not manage to improve the level of its national team by building stadiums but by having its best players play in top European clubs in the UK, Spain or Germany. As far as Belgian clubs are concerned, they are nowhere near the top. So assuming that this new Felcsút stadium and the other ones will have any positive effect on Hungarian football is a bit precocious and optimistic at best. They’d better spend the money on training young players.

  12. Since LwwiH visited the stadium only because taking a wrong turn, would it not have been cheaper for Hungary, insteaad of building this wonderful stadium to regulate that every car should have a navigator installed. Naturally, before this is included in the next changes of the Constutuion some friends of Mr Orban would secure some agencies for such accessories.

  13. “As for its impact on hungarian football…. My guess is you will see a difference in about 10 years”

    Stadiums, even in the Kafka wonderland that is Orbanistan, do not create good footballers. Proper grassroots investment in small scale pitch development in the villages and towns where the future Puskas may be lurking might…. but that is not what this wacky regime goes in for. Ceaușescu-esque ostentation is what counts, not reality.

  14. Executive boxes, leather seats and Der Fuhrer in personal attendance is all very well but exactly what kind of games are going to be played in a stadium which holds less than 5,000?

  15. Orbán clearly rigged the election to procure his two thirds majority, but despite the obscenity of Felcsut, still won comfortably (and 40% didn’t object enough to even vote), so he has a mandate for this sort of thing. In most nations, this would have lost him the election. In Hungary it didn’t. Sad but true.

  16. @monumental times – “The felcsut stadion will remain an architectural monster like the national theatre.
    They are beautiful only to some orbanists in orbanistan.”

    You are attacking the architect. To me, it looks very, very impressive! Apart from soccer games, they could even use it to stage open air Country Music Festivals, operas or rock concerts. The possibilities are unlimited.

  17. “Orbán clearly rigged the election to procure his two thirds majority, but despite the obscenity of Felcsut, still won comfortably…”

    True, however the timing of its unveiling is interesting.
    Whereas the regime pulled out all stops to make sure Metro 4, Erzsebet Ter etc etc were ready for the adoring public’s gaze pre-election, the Orban Stadium was not.

    Do we really believe that if the dictator had felt it was a vote winner it wouldn’t have been *ready*? Of course, it would. It (along with his obscene “f-you” to the Jews in Szabadsag Ter) is a message for his critics: “Look at my power, I am invincible”.

  18. The truth behind the FDI numbers (in Hungarian).

    There are outright lies and deliberate obfuscation of numbers published by the National Bank and the Statistical Office.

    The bottom line: the aggregate amount of FDI in Hungary stagnated in 2013, and would have even decreased but for the foreign-owned banks which had to increase capital in their loss-making Hungarian subsidiaries (e.g. MKB, CIB, Raiffeisen).

    As regards industrial, and non-financial service companies there was no real FDI in 2013, more long-term capital left Hungary then arrived.

    Of course given the never ending QE, no analyst or investors cares about the details, foreign financial investors will continue to buy whatever bonds Hungary sells.

    http://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/jon-e_a_mukodotoke_magyarorszagra.198024.html

  19. Just a few remarks before I turn to lunch – my wife is a marvellous cook btw …

    @HiBOM:

    45 % of the votes for Fidesz/KDNP is not a real win imho – in most European countries that would have forced them into a coalition …

    Re the video which is very critical of Orbán the Populist:

    Yes, the mayoress says that the workers in the “Arbeitsdienst” are not real, they are workers from a construction company – it’s all a fake …

    And the “social workers” she probably doesn’t want to show because they are all Gypsies.

    After that there is an interview with a Gypsy woman who tells the reporter that they are almost all out of work (after the fall of socialism they were sent home, three quarters have not found a new work and probably never will …)

  20. MSZP has really nothing in rural areas (mind you, DK or Együtt have even less).

    This is a great article, in Hungarian, an interview with a retired MSZP activist in Kiskunhalas, who said that there is nobody from the left there any more (and nobody has been since 202), while Fidesz and Jobbik have been very active, especially the younger generation which is totally Jobbik-leaning (not good as they will get older and incoming generations are also Jobbik supporters).

    The left is now an out of touch, urban and conformist party which has nothing believable to say to 85% of Hungarians — too bad that the new election system is based on the outside-Budapest voters.

    Given the necessary time to reorganize the party, that Fidesz will spend 7,000 billion forints from EU funds and the increasing activity of the right wing in rural areas, it is impossible that the left can win in 2018.

    (Especially as Fidesz already owns the media and hundreds of billions in election warchest, while the left has no funds and will not have either — although if they get to like Paks 2 and the new Danube dam-system they might get some minimal amounts).

    http://nol.hu/belfold/nem-a-foldmutyi-a-lenyeg-1457493

  21. @ tappanch film, # 10

    The Dumb led by the Dumber, and fueled by Putin money: Hungary caught in the vice
    of Stupidity and Corruption.

  22. Some1 :

    @tappanch: Regarding #10 Would you be kind to let us know what are they saying? I can’t properly hear it, and my German is not so great. THanks.

    Here is the story from Index

    http://index.hu/belfold/2014/04/18/kulfoldi_teveseket_akart_atverni_salgotarjan_polgarmestere/

    It seems that the Germans realized that they were shown phony public workers and found real ones who were less enthusiastic about the work they were doing.

    It looks as if the government spent a lot of money for public works before the elections but now that the public workers voted for Fidesz they are cutting back on the numbers. In some places the mayors will be receiving only half of the money they got earlier. Nice trick!

  23. wolfi :
    And the “social workers” she probably doesn’t want to show because they are all Gypsies.
    After that there is an interview with a Gypsy woman who tells the reporter that they are almost all out of work (after the fall of socialism they were sent home, three quarters have not found a new work and probably never will …)

    MOre stocking and questionable the 100% Fidesz vote from the Romas in certain villages. It is very obvious that those votes were bought. I hope some investigating journalist would be able to have a real interview with some of the Romas who did go out ad vote.

  24. OT – Driving home today from the neighbouring town, I was surprised to see quite a number of new election posters alongside the road, portraying Mesterhazy and the local Unity Alliance candidate. The last time I drove along this road was a couple of days before the 6 April elections, and I do not remember seeing these ads back then. That time it was Viktor Orban whose portrait dominated the landscape. My memory might be wrong or, this just smells like another dirty trick: my guess is that the opposition parties ordered and paid for these advertisements way before the elections, only somehow the posters could not find their way to the advertising boards until after too late.

  25. After a few year it’s not Orban exploration any more but a beautiful place for photographical Urban exploration.

  26. latefor :
    It looks like a magnificent structure, credit to the architect with great imagination! Hopefully it will bring in lots of tourist dollars for Hungary.

    I think it will bring money for Felcsut, Orban’s pocket, and for the “Felcsutian” friends of the Great Leader. Hungary, as a country, will not see a penny of the possible tourist dollars.
    G.

  27. latefor :
    @monumental times – “The felcsut stadion will remain an architectural monster like the national theatre.
    They are beautiful only to some orbanists in orbanistan.”
    You are attacking the architect. To me, it looks very, very impressive! Apart from soccer games, they could even use it to stage open air Country Music Festivals, operas or rock concerts. The possibilities are unlimited.

    Obviously Orbán admires the architechture of Imre Makovecz and his school. This is another example of his bad taste.

  28. Football Jesus, Hungarian style. We’ll Orban, the Puskas Academy, and the MLSZ better pray to Jesus, because he is the only one who can save Hungarian Football.

  29. Dear Eva Balogh,

    Your essay mentions the German origin of Ferenc Puskas.

    Further along these lines: According to German Wikipedia’s biography of Nandor Hidegkuti, “Sein Vater hiess noch Kaltenbrunner”.

    (from which, Hidegkuti is a straight translation).

    Regards,

    Vladimir Socor

  30. It’s funny in a way, German wiki has this to say on the golden team of Hungary:
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldene_Elf
    “Drei der Auswahlspieler waren deutscher Herkunft, deren Nachnamen magyarisiert wurden: Alexander Wagner als Sándor Kocsis, Ferdinand Kaltenbrunner als Nándor Hidegkuti und Franz Purzeld als Ferenc Puskás.”

    Seems they got this not completely right – Puskás’ Schwab father was born Purczeld and changed his name in 1937?

  31. wolfi :
    It’s funny in a way, German wiki has this to say on the golden team of Hungary:
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldene_Elf
    “Drei der Auswahlspieler waren deutscher Herkunft, deren Nachnamen magyarisiert wurden: Alexander Wagner als Sándor Kocsis, Ferdinand Kaltenbrunner als Nándor Hidegkuti und Franz Purzeld als Ferenc Puskás.”
    Seems they got this not completely right – Puskás’ Schwab father was born Purczeld and changed his name in 1937?

    lol I think Jobbik and Fidesz will fall into their own swords. I guess how some Hungarians claim that any great person who succeeded in the world had some Hungarian roots. Now we find out that many Hungarian who succeeded in Hungary had some German or other roots. So what is going to happen wit he Hungarian nationalists now?

  32. wolfi :
    It’s funny in a way, German wiki has this to say on the golden team of Hungary:
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldene_Elf
    “Drei der Auswahlspieler waren deutscher Herkunft, deren Nachnamen magyarisiert wurden: Alexander Wagner als Sándor Kocsis, Ferdinand Kaltenbrunner als Nándor Hidegkuti und Franz Purzeld als Ferenc Puskás.”
    Seems they got this not completely right – Puskás’ Schwab father was born Purczeld and changed his name in 1937?

    Just great again: “National” grandeur on false pretenses?

    Otherwise the whole project symbolize the present Hungarian situation pretty well: an oversized ego placed an oversized building for billions to the wrong place, dedicated for a kind of recreational activity, which today only known around the country by watching archive footages, since no up to date memorable events, nor even from a last couple of generations can be connected to in any way…
    The character and functionality of the building only icing on the cake.

    I can imagine to fill the place with high paying guests only, watching private games sponsored by the oligarchy and making juicy deals on the side in the VIP boxes…
    After all, the building of a private terminal underway already, it will be quite soon up and running too.
    A while back I may considered my own ideas too far-fetched even to my usually vivid imagination, but nowadays the reality tend to surpass even my fantasy. Yes, there is no such things as “too much” in Orbanistan.

  33. spectator :
    I can imagine to fill the place with high paying guests only, watching private games sponsored by the oligarchy and making juicy deals on the side in the VIP boxes…
    After all, the building of a private terminal underway already, it will be quite soon up and running too.
    A while back I may considered my own ideas too far-fetched even to my usually vivid imagination, but nowadays the reality tend to surpass even my fantasy. Yes, there is no such things as “too much” in Orbanistan.

    What I know is that a hotel is already in the works.

  34. Vladimir Socor :

    Dear Eva Balogh,

    Your essay mentions the German origin of Ferenc Puskas.

    Further along these lines: According to German Wikipedia’s biography of Nandor Hidegkuti, “Sein Vater hiess noch Kaltenbrunner”.

    (from which, Hidegkuti is a straight translation).

    Regards,

    Vladimir Socor

    Thank you, I didn’t know that. One thing is sure an awful lot of German names were changed in the second half of the 1930s. For example, civil servants couldn’t have non-Hungarian names. I have a funny story about this. I had a classmate whose name was Tróber, originally Trauber, whose father was a municipal employee. She had a maiden aunt who owned a pharmacy and the family decided that Zsuzsa, my friend, will inherit it. But it was known as the Tróber pharmacy and they wanted to keep the name. So, the maiden aunt formally adopted her. So far so good. But came the communists who nationalized the Tróber pharmacy. Eventually, Zsuzsa did become a pharmacist and ended up at one point working in the same pharmacy she was supposed to have owned.

  35. 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!

  36. latefor :
    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!

    You kidding. Aren’t you? It does not seem you are speechless either. Makovecz is certainly the main talent of “Yurt Culture”. After creating his first yurts he blended them with some pagan art motives and then on there was no turning back. I find his buildings look like sets from Lord of the Rings. His structures do not blend into the environment and for matter of fact they stand out as a sour thumb versus Gehry’s designs that also stand out but for very different reasons. For such a “Christian”, and nationalistically thinking government as the Fidesz, the support of Makovecz is a very add choice. Then again Orban does not have to much taste, and many of his friends either.

  37. @Some1 – I don’t really care from where Makovech got his ideas, but I LOVE the end results. (politics aside) As I said before, I’m speechless! (Lord of the Rings must have been inspired by his magnificent works).

  38. latefor :
    Lord of the Rings must have been inspired by [Makovecz’] magnificent works.

    I am sure it was, just like the Hungarian tribes from 1500 years ago inspired brain surgery. (Matolcsy)

  39. 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.

  40. some1: “I guess how some Hungarians claim that any great person who succeeded in the world had some Hungarian roots. Now we find out that many Hungarian who succeeded in Hungary had some German or other roots. So what is going to happen wit he Hungarian nationalists now?”

    There is actually no challenge for them as Hungarianism is a religion. So faith solves every such problem (rational thought would have compelled these people with mostly very European physiognomy to see their mixed origin by just consulting a mirror).

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