Monday, June 14, 2010

Hungary continued her long spasmodic decline – missing 1970 World Cup, ending 4th at European Championship 1972, and again failing to qualify for World Cup 1974. Unlike the wave-like ups and downs of Czechoslovakia, Hungary was clearly declining, so temporary similarity to her western neighbour is misleading. The national team was able to produce occasional fit of small success, but for the clubs the road ended pretty much in 1975, so 1974 is more or less the last year of strong club football. Ujpesti Dosza dominated domestic football, winning its 15th title and 5th in a row from 1970 on.
Now, Lilak (the Purples) are the oldest existing club in Hungary. The football section is not as old, but since it belongs to the all-sports club, the oldest it is, despite the grumbling of MTK and Ferencvaros. The rivalry is Budapest-based and like many other countries Budapest ruled local football and in the first half of the 20th century it was largely MTK – Ferencvaros rivalry, Ujpest coming third. Things changed when the Communists took power: old ‘tainted’ clubs had to be diminished or eliminated one way or the other. Ferencvaros was the most tainted, accused with supporting the old Admiral Horthy’s regime and became the black sheep. And similarly to elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the ‘fascist’ club was not only the most popular, but particularly popular with the working class. The Communists, championing the ‘working class’ curiously ostracized working class sport clubs, but never mind for now. The prime result is the building of mythology and resistance: Ferencvaros became the oppressed ‘people’s’ club opposing the ‘state’ clubs. The state copied the prime model – USSR – and quickly established the classic ‘working class’ clubs dear to all: the Army (Honved) and the Police. In the Hungarian class a step further was taken to outdo the prime model – not one, but two Police clubs: MTK was taken by the Secret Police in 1949. Ujpest was taken simply by the Police in 1950. All clubs were properly renamed to purge them from their ‘bourgeois past’ and Ujpest became Budapesti Dosza – named after medieval Transylvanian-born leader of peasant revolt. The 1950s – the great decade of Hungarian football – was dominated by Honved and MTK (under different names). During the failed revolt in 1956 old names were restored with two exceptions: Honved remained (and restored its original name Kispest in 1990) and Budapesti Dosza became Ujpesti Dosza. MTK was no longer Police club, so ‘Lilak’ remained the club of regular and secret Police. Correspongingly, Honved and MTK lost their grip, replaced by Ferencvaros – Ujpesti Dosza dominance in the classic clear opposition of ‘people’ vs ‘the state’. Naturally, Ferencvaros were victimized, cheated, oppressed, etc. For the numerous fans of Ujpesti Dosza remained the discomfort of supporting cops’ club when cheering yet another title. The first half of the 1970s was entirely Lilak – and politics aside, football arguments spoke in their favour. Ferencvaros was aging and Ujpesti Dosza had younger squad. They were also able to replace old players smoothly and reached their peak in 1974.

Top, left to right: Szentmihalyi, Kolar, P. Juhasz, Nosko, Dunai III, Harsanyi, Horvath, Dunai II, Szigethi.
Bottom: Fazekas, Fekete, A. Toth, Bene, Zambo, Kellner, L. Nagy.
Almost everybody played for the national team, always a sign of strong team. But there was more: in 1974 the Ujpesti Dosza came very close to playing total football unlike Ferencvaros. The arch-rivals had to change almost the whole team at that time and their very young squad lacked experience – I saw both clubs live at that time and Ujpesti Dosza were fun; Ferencvaros were not. Lilak seemed to have the right chemistry, the right skill and intelligence, and the right policy – for example, Bene was nearing retirement, but Fekete was expected not only to replace him, but to become the next ‘big player’. Both played together, the transition was to go smoothly. Well, Fekete did not become big star… but for the moment everything was great, temporary obscuring the deepening crisis of Hungarian football. Ferencvaros got the cup. Unlike Ujpesti Dozsa, ‘Fradi’ were not made yet – it was young squad, not fully formed, and far from reaching its potential. Transitional team.

Top, left to right: Gyozo Martos, Istvan Juhasz, Istvan Geczi, Miklos Pancsics, Peter Vepi, Istvan Megyesi, Ferenc Csanadi – coach.
Bottom: Istvan Szoke, Laszlo Branikovits, Jozsef Mucha, Zoltan Ebedli, Zoltan Engelbrecht. Both winning clubs performed well in the European club tournaments. More layers eclipsing reality.