Soroksár SC v Ceglédi VSE
Szamosi Mihály Sporttelep / Nemzeti Bajnokság II / 30th October 2016
I woke up having had a magnificent night out in Budapest and an even better time earlier that day at Honvéd FC. In fact, it was one of my favourite ever football experiences and certainly my favourite ‘on the continent’ so far. Following such a lively, fun exhibition of fandom and such a wonderful football coliseum was going to be as difficult task as a colour blind person trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. By the way did you know that the Rubik’s Cube was invented in Budapest? Well you do now, as the great puzzle-creator himself, Erno Rubik, hails from Budapest. Anything to get the mind working was not for me the next day as I dragged myself out of The Hive Party Hostel and back into the tall, narrow streets of Budapest. The club set with the task of following Honvéd FC on this Sunday afternoon? Soroksár SC of the Hungarian second tier and another resident of the southern suburbs of the city.
People poke fun at my love of beer, but this merely clouds an addiction I have that, in my eyes, is far stronger: Hi, my name is Matt and I’m a coffee addict. I really do drink the stuff excessively these days (I think it may be compulsory as a teacher). I do like a cool niche coffee-house, but sadly deep down I’m a sellout and love Starbucks the most. Slovakia seems a barren country for the American coffee super chain – apart from one in Bratislava which I’m yet to visit – so I’d not seen that beautiful, trademark dark green sign since being in Vienna back in August. On this morning I was to be reunited with Starbucks; cappuccinos and Wi-Fi were my good friends as I scoured the internet working out how the hell to get to Soroksár SC.
The problem I have when I visit big cities like Budapest is that I assume I can just turn up having done no real research and my football destination will just make itself known to me. I’ve found it never ever works like that and each time I take this ‘no research’ approach, I soon myself studying maps and public transport timetables (usually in Starbucks) sussing out my routes to my planned destination. Getting to Soroksár was a prime example of my maverick, last ditch planning. For some reason, I had it in my head that the club played fairly centrally in Budapest, so I was disheartened to learn that it was found much further south than Honvéd. Plus, there was no direct route to the area and some tram/metro changes were required. I was delighted to learn though that Soroksár played in District XXIII part of the city (no, not like The Hunger Games). Anyone that knows me well will know I regularly claim I’m not superstitious, apart from my weird obsession with the number 23; I won’t go into detail about it here, as I could write a whole blog on the magical influence it has on my life by itself. Anyway, away from the numbers and back to those maps and timetables…
Eventually, I was satisfied with my travel plan and then ditched caffeine for alcohol. You’re not really a British tourist unless you frequent a city’s Irish bar and so I ticked that box firmly by visiting a rather claustrophobic little place called ‘The Publin Irish Bar’ (see what they did there?)
It was then onwards to Foväm ter metro station adjacent to the east bank of the Danube. From here it was south towards Közvágóhid and my switch from metro to tram services. The fact that it was a Sunday had slipped my mind and the über regular service of the day before had dipped somewhat, so I was disappointed to find I had a 30 minute wait in Közvágóhid for my tram further south into the suburbs. Fortunately, the tram stop had a remarkably shady bar attached to it and so it was here I set up base temporarily.
The bar seemed to be the drinking hub of the living dead – although with many of these folk looking more dead than the oxymoronic ‘living dead’. I opted to play it safe here and order one of the city’s most prevalent lagers, Dreher; however, what came this time was not the usual trustworthy local lager, but some sort of dark stout stuff. It was a hard, drawn out process getting this dark, thick foam down me and the tasted lingered for most of the day.
Eventually I was aboard my tram and soon arriving at Szent István utca tram stop – just metres away from the away entrance to Soroksár; yes, I was surprised that the Hungarian second tier had an away end too. I originally thought this was the ground’s main entrance, so I made a beeline for it before the stewards expressed doubt that I was a Ceglédi VSE away fan (I confirmed their doubt quickly). I began my walk around the ground, until I ended up at the other side of a high concrete fence with barbed wire on top and then into the club car park. Here was a steward waiting in a little hut distributing match tickets, which strangely cost more than my visit to top flight Honvéd the day before. Having been denied at the away end, I thought the home end would be a doddle to get into with my ticket – how wrong I was.
Having followed the taped-off route around the car park, I arrived at the bottom of the steps leading up to Soroksár’s stand and was confronted by two stewards. The male patted me down, before both male and female steward began rummaging through my bag. My bottle of water going into the ground was a no go apparently, but that was almost finished and so it was all theirs. Then , I realised I hadn’t taken my Honvéd scarf out of my bag from the day before and soon they were holding that out at arm’s length like they’d pulled out some shit-covered toilet paper. “No Honvéd scarf,” declared the steward. I then began explaining that, no, it was a Honvéd scarf, before realising that “No Honvéd scarf” meant that it wasn’t allowed in. I assured him I’d left it by accident and had no intention of wearing it, but he was having none of it. I gestured asking what he wanted me to do with it, before it became clear he just wanted me to leave it there at the entrance. “I watch,” he stated with not reassurance in his voice. However, with no choice, I began to tie my scarf around the lamppost by the entrance, expecting to find it burned by the time I came back to claim it.
The ground itself is a strange one, but one I found quite difficult to love really. On the ‘home side’ of the ground was a mish-mash of structures which included: a stand that sloped down towards the pitch from where I had entered; another two-storied building behind it; another building housing the club bar, which led onto the changing rooms; and, easily my favourite feature, yet inaccessible to mere mortals like me, was the little VIP hut they had raised above the stand and the rest of the area. The rest of the ground was off-limits, apart from the small seating area over the other side of the ground, which was available to the away fans ( I counted 3 of them). I noticed they didn’t even have access to the ‘fine’ facilities on my side of the ground. Admittedly, I thought I had no access to such facilities for a brief moment too.
As per usual, I made a beeline for the clubhouse and on opening the entrance door, a hi-vis clad gentleman came and blocked my away. No beer for me? No, it just seemed that this was a rather exclusive club bar and I was left with the peasants to get served my beer from a small adjacent hatch. It was a quite chilly afternoon in Budapest and so my cold hands were left holding cold beer out in the cold. Damn the club bar dwellers in their ivy tower (conservatory).
As the teams were emerging, I headed to the occasionally reliable Wikipedia to scour the squad list. My tiny bit of research had unearthed that Soroksár were managed by former Hungarian international Krisztián Lisztes; he was also a favourite of mine from over a decade earlier, as he proved an integral cog for my Werder Bremen team on Football Manager. However, I soon realised another familiar football name was in front of me lining up for Soroksár as their captain: Cardiff City’s former Hungarian centre back Gabor Gyepes. As a Swansea fan, I was never going to take to him on the pitch and I found myself secretly wanting him to have a mare. He had little to do in the end.
Linking my day in hUngary back to Wales, during my final days in Wales before heading over to Slovakia, I paid a visit to Pontypridd Town. On that Friday night visit back in August, they trounced Newport City 6-1 in the opening game of the Welsh League. Seeing 7 goals was obviously great, including a 35 yard wonder goal for Ponty, but the undisputable highlight of the evening was Ponty’s entrance music: the theme to 90s Saturday night TV sensation Gladiators. An audacious, yet superb intro choice at Pontypridd from my pal Nicky (more on him later), but Soroksár had a good go at challenging them for best intro music of the season. As the teams emerged from the caged tunnel leading from the changing rooms, the dramatic intro of The Alan Parsons Project’s instrumental song Sirius boomed out over the tinny PA system. The haunting guitar chimes and keyboards made it sound like the Hungarian second tier football we were about to witness would be similar to some sort of futuristic gladiatorial battle.
The first half was not really fitting for the epicness of The Alan Parsons Project’s coruscating orchestral sounds. In fact, it was predictably drab – especially after yesterday’s extravagances. So being bored, it was predictable I would home in on some poor soul in the stands to distract me with conversation. That person happened to be an old gentleman stood right next to me wearing a Hertha Berlin cap. I went to Hertha’s monumental Olympiastadion back in February 2014, so I attempted to strike up a conversation in German with this grey-bearded man. He happily obliged. I assumed he was a German groundhopper, but It seemed he was a local to Soroksár, who had spent a year living in Berlin and thus supporting Hertha. He spoke German fluently and was happy to have someone to talk to in German. It’d be kind to say that my German is average, so I bumbled my way through our chat, but he seemed to find it “komisch” finding a Welsh lad speaking German to him at a second division Hungarian game on the outskirts of Budapest. I found it a bit random too to be honest.
With me running out of German vocabulary and phrases quickly, I left my adopted Berliner be and headed back to the bar. The game was still failing to get going and despite the odd scramble in the box and Ceglédi having one shot at the home team goal, it was a borefest.
Half-time: Soroksár SC 0 – 0 Ceglédi VSE
I’d tweeted at half-time that I was certain that this game would be a 0-0, but, now armed with some battered chicken in a bun and more beer, I enjoyed the second half a lot more.
Soroksár were dominating and almost scored a 35 yard wonder goal, which for a second looked as if it had gone in as the net rippled. Sadly, the shot had gone inches over and the ball had just rolled across the back of the goal.
It wasn’t long before the ball was in the back of the net though. A long throw into the box from the right bobbled around in the air for a bit, before a backward header saw the ball bounce towards a Soroksár player, who acrobatically volleyed his shot into the bottom corner. Cue some Euro-dance version of Seven Nation Army over the speakers.
Not long after, it was 2-0 to the home team. This time it was very much the keeper’s fault, as his poor effort at clearing a high ball with a feeble palm away, fell to a Soroksár player, who, through a crowded box, tapped home. More Seven Nation Army was required it seemed.
The closing quarter of the game was enjoyable, as Soroksár had turned into a very functional passing team with some great counter attacks in the style of their fellow yellow/black shirt wearers, Borussia Dortmund. They were very much deserving of their victory by the final whistle. I wasn’t hanging around too long to clap a team captained by Gabor Gyepes though.
Full-time: Soroksár SC 2 – 0 Ceglédi VSE.
Much to my delight, back at the entrance steps to the ground, I found my Honvéd scarf still intact around the lamppost and not burned one bit. The steward smiled when he saw me and seemed to make a big joke about me to the crowd of stewards around him now; it was a joke they all seemed to appreciate with hearty, chest-holding laughs, while not taking their eyes off me. I said my goodbyes and got out of there.
My journey back to the heart of Budapest was less stop-start than my earlier journey down to the south of the city and this time did not require me to stop at any tram stop bars to indulge in toxic black stout. I was back in my hostel relatively quickly and with me not really stopping for breath all weekend, I opted for an hour break.
Back on the streets of Budapest, I headed out for dinner with only one thing on my mind: goulash. I bloody love goulash. They have it in Slovakia, but I was well aware that Hungary was its true home. I ended up in a bar called Extra, which seemed to be in some sort of old church, and the goulash was perfect. The evening was made a hell of a lot better too, as I was soon joined by old friends.
Nicky (of My Year in The Welsh League fame and Gladiators theme song endorser at Ponty Town) and his wife Lara have been trying to travel away someone at least once a month. In a bizarre but brilliant coincidence, it seemed they had picked Budapest the same weekend as me and obviously meeting up for some good, old-fashioned Welsh drinking was needed. After our beer in Extra, we headed over to popular ruin bar of Szimpla Kent, before heading off to our main base for the night.
Red Ruin had been recommended to all three of us by others and I would certainly now highly endorse this superb drinking hole too. Red Ruin is basically a communist-themed bar, but a bar that pokes fun at the Red Flag; Stalin would be rolling in his grave if he happened to see this place. I sat myself at a table with an image of Colonel Sanders wearing a Soviet-style hat with my drink order in front of me: a beer with a shot of Jägermeister. The friendly barman convinced us to order Jäger with the shot being half price with every beer on a Sunday evening.
Several beer/Jäger combos later and we were joined by a rather strange American chap who told us about how his girlfriend left him, so he was now traveling Europe with his 70-year-old mother. As Americans can do at times, he got a bit annoying and none of us were too downhearted to see him leave. But, he then irritatingly quickly came back again to join our party. Considering I’d been out all day and had now drunk a couple of beers and Jägers in here, I cockily thought to myself that I was rather sober. Then, the barman introduced us to Palinka (also, apparently half price on Sundays). BANG! All three of us were gone immediately. Having chatted to me about Slovakia a bit, the barman declared Palinka as Hungary’s answer to Slovakia’s favourite (and my favourite) borovička. This tasted and felt far more lethal than my beloved borovička. Before,= I knew it, after a blurry haze, it was Monday morning and I was in my hostel bed fully clothed, shoes and all…
At 9am, I was straight out of bed in an attempt at stopping the Palinka overcoming me and a prospective hangover taking hold of me. I never usually get hangovers, but this time I was worried that this Palinka stuff may defeat me. Anyway, no Palinka was going to stop me completing my final task of the weekend.
An hour or so after leaving my hostel, I was at the Cittadella, atop the hill in Buda looking down on the Pest part of city. It was a stunning sight and from up here Budapest showed it’s true beauty. I was in love with Budapest Soroksár had been a bit bland, but it was sandwiched in the middle of an incredible 60 hours or so in easily one of my favourite cities. I doubt I’ll be battling my way back Soroksár, but Budapest is most definitely being paid another visit in the not so distant future.
Highlights: more Budapest, cheap entry, Alan Parsons Project intro, great second half, great first goal, meeting up with Nicky and Lara, Red Ruin.
Low Points: jobsworth stewards, no club bar, dull ground, dull first half, Gabor Gyepes playing.
See all my photos from Soroksár SC and some more Budapest here.