Saturday, January 7, 2012

Football is never certain when observed – new champions are what? A momentary miracle, or change of guard with long-lasting consequences? One does not even to be confused by opposing camps – one’s mind is uncertain all by itself… just a year ago Ferencvaros looked hopeless and Ujpesti Dosza almost great. Not so in the summer of 1976… for Ferencvaros won a double! Both the Hungarian championship and the Cup. Ujpesti Dosza slipped to 3rd place in the final table and Fradi fans were more than happy: the violet yoke ended and how! Ferencvaros won its first title since 1968, a long years of waiting and suffering the monopoly of Ujpesti Dosza. Great for the fans, but was it a beginning of new era? Hard to tell – Ferencvaros surely suffered a long and painful decline, largely due to change of generations. The young squad reaching – and pathetically losing – the Cup Winners Cup final in 1975 was clearly inexperienced. Meantime it was obvious that the days of Ujpesti Dosza have to end soon – 7 titles in a row, yet, won by one and the same squad, which was getting older with every next year.
The inevitable seemingly happened: the Fradi gained experience, matured in a way, when the Lilak were nearing retirement… and Ferencvaros came back with a vengeance and looked like they were going to dominate Hungarian football for some time.

The team certainly looked solid, with room for improvement – veterans like Geczi, Juhasz, Muha, and Branikovics were to step down soon, but it was no longer a matter of generational change, but only of fine tuning: the skeleton of solid champions was already in place – Magyar, Pusztai, Martos, Rab, Megyesi… and most importantly the brilliant Laszlo Balint, in his prime, and the young bright midfielder Tibor Nyilasi, arguably, the last truly great Hungarian player. With them Ferencvaros had the edge for the years to come – Ujpesti Dosza had to enter transitional period and to suffer some decline. Predictions… tainted by doubts as well, for it looked like Hungary settled into duopoly and generally insignificant pool of talent. Any other hopeful signs? May be MTK (Budapest). Great past, but MTK lost its importance quite long time ago – like Ferencvaros, the old ‘Jewish club’ won its last trophy in 1968 – the Hungarian Cup. Unlike Ferencvaros, MTK won nothing in 1976 – they managed only to reach the Cup final , which they lost 0-1. But it looked like improvement – they finished 6th in the championship and added cup final as well. Were they to restore some of their old glory? Were they to become a challenger and not merely terciary Budapestian club, struggling for forth place in the city’s ranking with another faded oldtimers – Vasas (by mid-70s the giant of the 1950s – Honved – more or less occupied third position, with Czepel sinking to the bottom of the pool of ‘big’ Budapest clubs)?
MTK looked good somehow – with players getting ‘second wind’, yet, better then what the club had a few years earlier. May be, may be…

Top, from left: Szigeti, Palicsko, Csetenyi, Nyiro, Burg, Gaspar.
Bottom: Takacs, Kovacs, Koritar, Kiss, Kunszt.
Revival for MTK? Well, it was not ‘pure’ MTK anymore, but a merger – in 1975 MTK fused with VM into MTK-VM. It lasted for a while.
Along with the old boys, another, younger, club showed claws: Videoton (Szekesfehervar). The provincial boys had different names in their earlier years, but since 1968 they were renamed after their sponsor – electrical goods manufacturer. Thoroughly industrial by name, and with solid financing, they were to become strong team in the 1980s – 1976 was just a first spark of life, not even taken seriously, for provincial clubs were one-time wonders in Budapest-dominated Hungary.

Runners-up in 1976 and with even better things to come, but – so far – this is the best domestic achievement of Videoton.
At the bottom of the league there was joy: the Hungarian Federation decided to extend the League to 18 teams for the next season and there were no relegations in 1976. Lucky outsiders.