Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Deeper in the bowels of European football fun was dubious. Old rivalries commanded domestic scenes – usually two or three clubs well above the rest, but ever the same. Changes were slow, if any. Traditions informed outcomes, quite predictable. Thus, in Hungary the 1950s power Honved (Budapest) was no longer a factor - Ferencvaros and Ujpest Dozsa dominated Hungarian football, with Ujpest Dozsa eventually having the upper hand in the first half of the 1970s. Ferencvaros had aging squad, led by the great Florian Albert already near retirement. Their Budapest rivals had younger squad, led by the unfortunate Ferenc Bene. Also getting long in the tooth, Bene was caught between generations – when Albert was in his prime, Bene was in his shadow; when Bene became old – younger Fasekas and still younger than Fasekas Nyilasi were making the waves. Either too young or too old, Bene played in difficult years for Hungary – still expected to be ‘big’, but failing to reach such expectations, in its slow decline. Olympic champions in 1968, but not qualifying for World Cup 1970. Fourth at the European Championship 1972 – but failing to reach World Cup finals in 1974. Bene played in this national squad… his Ujpest Dozsa won the Hungarian title, but Albert’s Ferencvaros won the Cup in 1972. Yet, to my mind Ujpest Dozsa of that time were the last decent Hungarian club squad. By 1974 they played close approximation of total football and were fun to watch. Close… but not close enough: hardly impressed anyone on the international scene.

Under appreciated Ferenc Bene.

Bene lifts the cup… the Championship trophy or the Hungarian Cup? National success never transformed into international neither for him, nor for Ujpest Dozsa, nor for the national team of Hungary. Fading power.