BKV Előre v Jászberényi Vasas
Sport utcai stadium / Nemzeti Bajnokság III / 30th April 2017
There are always pub quiz questions about which grounds are closest to each other in the UK? Of course, the answer in English football is Notts County and Nottingham Forest, just 0.7 miles across the Trent from each other, closely followed by Liverpool and Everton, who play 0.8 miles across Stanley Park from each other. Others will know that Dundee and Dundee United are the closest in the UK though with them practically sharing the same street (they are 0.2 miles apart). However, the lines get more blurry in non-league with several clubs being literally next door to each other. I can even think of 3 clubs virtually on the same street as each other in Blackpool: Squire’s Gate and Blackpool Wren Rovers sit side-side with AFC Blackpool playing just across the street too. My knowledge is limited here, but I can imagine it’s much the same on the continent with there being many, many examples of club’s practically next to each other. One such example can be found in Budapest. Many will know MTK Budapest’s stadium is the stadium from the iconic film Escape to Victory (although the ground has practically been rebuilt recently and has no resemblance to the one that hosted Pele, Bobby Moore, Sylvester Stallone and their Allied team mates); less will be familiar with the club literally on the other side of the quiet street near the middle of Budapest: BKV Előre of the Hungarian third tier.
One thing I virtually never do? Have a lie-in. So, much to my surprise, after a day in Újpest and a late night pub crawl through Budapest, I found myself the next morning struggling to get up from Dan’s sofa bed for day 2 of my weekend in Budapest. A combination of a busy working week, an early start for Budapest Saturday morning and an all-dayer in Budapest combined to keep me in bed until almost midday. Midday brought a reason to start getting up though, as the early kick-off on TV in the Premier League was my beloved Swans playing away at Manchester United.
Starbucks and some early afternoon pizza got me moving properly again and we arrived at a fairly empty Stifler’s Bar ready for the Swans game. The only other people in the bar seemed to be a gang of Brits in the corner – probably another stag do. Marcus Rashford did his best to spoil my Sunday with a horrendous dive to give United a penalty, which they scored, but Gylfi Sigurdsson- the footballer I idolise more than anyone in world football these days – saved the day for me with the most perfect free kick you’ll see. 1-1 it was to be and I left Stifler’s Bar happy (even though Swansea almost scored at the end to win it).
Just like yesterday, I had no idea of our tram route to our destination of Előre, so I put my faith in Dan’s knowledge of the Budapest transport system again. We got to the nearby tram stop and just like the day before en route to Újpest, Dan disappeared into a shop and emerged with more random alcohol. Unlike the previous day when he had decided buying cans of cheap rose wine was a good idea, today’s choice of random ales was more conventional and to my liking. I even had a choice of which beer I wanted; I obviously opted for the brilliant-looking, brilliant-sounding and I’d soon learn brilliant-tasting Helmut beer.
We were soon aboard one of Budapest’s rickety, iconic yellow trams and it was not long before the sight of MTK’s gleaming, yet slightly unorthodox, redeveloped stadium came into view. That was our cue to get off at the next tram stop, as I was told that BKV Előre would be located near MTK’s home. Admittedly, I didn’t realise quite how close.
Firstly, I did the usual football tourist stuff of posing for photos outside of MTK’s stadium. I’m a big lover of Escape to Victory and, yes, I know this is practically a whole new ground, but it’s still the setting of Stallone’s penalty save and Pele’s crucial and wondrous overhead kick. I’m sure I’ll get around to watching some football at MTK soon enough.
I knew Előre was nearby, but I didn’t expect to turn the corner of MTK and find it literally across the street from their stadium. You could have taken 10 steps from one stadium to the other stadium. I loved the sheer juxtaposition between both grounds too. MTK looks more like a large, futuristic, rather minimalastic box, whilst Előre’s stadium couldn’t look any more retro with its rather grand-looking grandstand. It really does have a sort of battered yet grandiose feel to it. It’s a brilliant stand and there can’t be many cooler stands in the city.
We were seeking an entrance to the ground, but instead found the bar entrance first, so we headed in there and into the depths of that huge stand. It was as if we’d gone through a time portal – we’d gone from standing outside a gleaming new stadium to a very old-school, quite communist looking cafe/bar. We had cheap Dreher beer on tap and these awesome schnitzel roll things (apparently called Bécsi Szelet’ in the native tongue) – they were awesome. All you need before a third division Hungarian clash.
While I was ordering my schnitzel roll, Dan had clearly got bored and wanting to be like a true groundhopper he began penning the team sheet into his notepad. However, this being low down the Hungarian football pyramid, there weren’t exactly teamsheets to hand, so he began making up his own line-up. So apparently lining up for BKV Előre today would be: modern Hungarian football hero Zoltan Gera (I doubted this one, as he had scored a hatrick for Ferencváros the weekend before); ‘the guy from Scrubs’; former Welsh international Jermaine Easter; and even my groundhopping sidekick of the past 4 years Joseph “Gibbo” Gibbons. Throw in that Messi was apparently up front and I fancied Előre’s chances against Jászberény Vasas this afternoon
Sadly, I arrived pitchside to find no Gibbo lining up in attack alongside Leo Messi, but I did have that wonderful stand to explore. There was no other stand in the ground and only the one side was accessible. But who cares, when you have such a glorious stand like the one at Előre to frequent on that one side. We snuck through the fence behind the goal to take frontal photos of the stand, although I’d left my memory card for my camera at home and the slightly cracked lens of my camera phone couldn’t really cope with the sunshine, so my photos do not do it justice.
To carry on my gushing love for that stand,I’m now going to move on to the walkway/stairs up to the stand itself – I know, it really doesn’t sound that interesting. However, if there was a Lost Boyos award for ‘Stairs to Access a Stand of the Season’ (there’s not) this would win it. I’m still not sure why, but I thought these steps (photoed below) looked beautiful for some reason. A very groundhopper-y thing to say, I know.
As you’d expect from a third division Hungarian game played on a Sunday afternoon, the crowd was threadbare. Me and Dan headed right to the heady heights of the top of the stand to take in today’s football. It’s a shame there wasn’t a game on across the road, as you can see some of MTK’s pitch from the top window of the stand.
The game was actually quite entertaining to watch and although there wasn’t too much quality on show, it was a full-blooded and fairly fast-paced match. Certainly better than a lot of the lower league stuff I’ve seen in neighbouring Slovakia. The first half proved especially good here.
It would take until the 21st minute for the first goal of the game to occur. It seemed that Dan had forgotten to create a fictitious line-up for the away team and had missed off one real star for them: Petr Cech. It did appear that the Arsenal goalie was playing up front for Jászberényi Vasas, although it may have just been a striker wearing a head cap and having a strikingly similar physique to the Czech goalie. Anyway, he was referred to as ‘Cech’ for the rest of the game and his opener was a delight. Cech broke into the box and from the right fired in an unstoppable right-footed shot with the outside of the boot. Not bad for a goalie playing up front.
The opening goal was good, but Előre’s equaliser was even better. A looped cross into the box was finished superbly with a side-footed left foot volley to make it 1-1. This was before Előre made it 2-1 shortly after, as a ball was played across the box from the left and easily tapped in.
Half-time: BKV Előre 2 – 1 Jászberényi Vasas.
The second half wasn’t quite as action-packed as the first, but still mildly entertaining nonetheless.
The on-pitch highlight came in the 52nd minute, mainly for comedy reasons more than a moment of a genius. A ball was sent looping towards the home goalie’s goal, yet he pulled off an acrobatic save to stop it going in; however, his impressive leap sent him flying into his own net and getting stuck in the net for a short time. It was funny to watch if you were there anyway,
To be honest, that was it on the pitch action-wise, aside from a few half chances. the rest of the half was spent playing about with the old metal fence that cordoned off some sort of away pen in the stand and admiring the view in the distance. As the sun began to set, the background to the ground began to look more impressive. If you could look past the ugly buildings surrounding the ground, you could make out some of the pretty looking hills and mountains that backdrop parts of Buda. LookING a bit harder to the west and you could even make out the Citadel standing triumphantly on Gellért Hill.
Full-time: BKV Előre 2 – 1 Jászberényi Vasas.
At the final whistle, we found ourselves quickly back at the tram stop and with the sun setting, we began standing on the line trying to take arty photos – you know, like the philosophical ones you find attached to memes and stuff.
My final evening in Budapest started in the brilliant Red Ruin. I lavished this bar with love in my blog about Soroksár on my previous weekend in Budapest back in October, as it was here I ended up getting extremely drunk with my Welsh pals Nicky and Lara. Aside from the cheap palinka and cheap Jägermeister we got on that particular visit, the bar’s selling point is the parodical communist theme. On the walls you’ll find murals of the likes of Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky and all your other favourite communist leaders partying in colourful party hats, whilst one table has a picture of Colonel Sanders wearing a ushanka. I was surprised to learn that Dan hadn’t visited, so I was glad we got to head there.
Our gathering proved to be an international affair with Dan’s French flat mates joining us, as well as his Polish and Canadian pals. I do love a good a night out with a range of nationalities, but I do always find that this sort of gathering results in rapid drunkenness and this evening was no different. We eventually left Red Ruin and headed for another Stifler’s Pub complete with a whole games room on the bottom floor. I still recall attempting the dance mat and getting very frustrated and confused as to why my coordination had gone so bad. As well as old arcade games, we even played the old ‘get to know you’ favourite of ‘Never have I never’ – which made me feel a bit young again and took me back to my student days.
Like the previous evening, the night sort of blurred slightly after the dance mat, but the bars were cool and the company was cool, so I was happy. Bed was welcoming at 3am though.
Budapest really is a superb city and I had once again had an awesome weekend. The football had been alright and it was great to go to two very contrasting grounds. I think I was more of a fan of the ‘experience’ at Újpest, but that stand at Előre made that the more favourable ground of the two for me (although of the four Budapest grounds I’ve been to so far, Hónved’s stadium is still easily the king for me).
I was leaving Budapest Sunday afternoon and so Sunday morning I made the same pilgrimage I had made six months earlier. The climb up Gellért Hill to the Citadel was a lot steeper than I remembered, but it’s so worth it for the wonderful, panoramic view of the Pest side of the city. Once again, just like the last time I was photographed here, I even got to get in a bit of European ambassadorial work for my favourite Welsh League club, Taffs Well.
What a city. I’ll definitely be back.
Highlights: Stifler’s Pub for Swans game, easy to get to Előre, two grounds next to each other, amazing stand at Előre, Red Ruin, fun night out.
Low Points: not much around Előre’s ground (aside from MTK’s ground).
See all my photos from Előre and more Budapest here.