Újpest-poned!

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Újpest v MTK Budapest (16.03.2013) (match postponed)

It was definitely playable. That was my assessment anyway as we arived at the Szusza Ferenc Stadium 90 minutes before kickoff to find the place deserted and that the game had been postponed the day before!

With six top flight teams based in Budapest you are pretty much guaranteed a minimum of 2-3 games on any given weekend in the city. Although the reason for this trip was my stag do, the football was very much the centre of the weekend itinerary!

Whilst other stag parties might go looking for day time activities like paintballing and quad biking; I was in search of football derbies! This particular weekend in Budapest threw up two interesting derbies in Újpest v MTK Budapest on the Saturday, and Honved v Ferencvaros on the Sunday. It doesn’t get much better than that on a football weekend away!

We had arrived in Budapest on the Friday night, and there was nothing untoward about the weather. It was cold, and felt even colder with the wind-chill, but there was no snow covering in the city and the weather seemed about right for the time of year in an Eastern European city. At this point we had no idea what was to follow over the course of the weekend.

After a night of heavy drinking we all awoke on the Saturday morning feeling pretty hung-over. We had quite a bit of time to kill before the 205th Ujpest v MTK derby and the inevitable start of another days drinking, so we decided to embrace another well known local culture first.

Budapest has a fairly unique quality, in that it is one of the very few large cities in the world that is rich in thermal water – and as such is known as the “city of spas”. A visit to Budapest is really not complete without a visit to one, and there are many dotted throughout the city. It’s a big part of local city life, and the combination of the various heated thermal baths and ice cold plunge pools ended up being the perfect hang over cure!

‘Gellert Baths’ and the ‘Rudas Thermal Spa’ are two that are definitely worth a visit, and both are located on the ‘Buda’ side of the River Danube in the city centre next to the heads of the Liberty Bridge (Szabadsag Hid) and Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsebet Hid) respectively. Both are located in grand buildings and the Rudas Spa in particular dates back to the 16th century, and has a central octagonal thermal pool covered by a 10 meter diameter dome. It’s hard to explain, but it was a surreal experience and felt like a throwback to roman times.

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Gellert Spa….

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The ancient and ‘dingy’ looking Rudas Spa…

After a late lunch and a few early looseners we jumped into cabs for the short journey across town to the Szusza Ferenc Stadium – home of Újpest FC. As we pulled up outside the ground something immediately didn’t seem right. The place looked deserted and there wasn’t anyone in sight. Admittedly we had got there 90 minutes before kick off to enjoy the luxury of our hospitality tickets!…but we thought there would be at least a few riot police knocking about, but it was like a ghost town. According to our cab driver the game had been called off the day before!

We couldn’t understand quite why this game wasn’t on. There was no snow, it wasn’t cold enough for the pitch to be frozen, and as we sneaked into the corner of the stadium the pitch looked perfectly playable:

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How was this game off?….

Amongst the stag party there were feelings of bemusement, frustration, disbelief, and emptiness. Caught by the shock of the cancellation there was no immdeiate plan B!

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Dejected souls inside the empty Szusza Ferenc Stadium….

It turned out that due to heavy snowfall across Hungary a few days before, the Hungarian Football Federation had decided to postpone the entire round of league fixtures scheduled for that weekend across the entire country.

In England, the Premier League and Football League would only postpone games on an individual basis and would give every chance for top flight games to be played. Didn’t they know we were coming!? Still bemused and frustrated we reluctantly got back into the cabs and headed back to the city centre bars to drown our sorrows.

Despite there being no game to report on, I will at least provide you with some useful information just in case you ever fancy a venture out to see an Újpest game!

The stadium is located in the northern part of the city, and can be reached by metro or local bus services. By metro you can take line M3 (blue) which runs to ‘Ujpest Kozpont which is about a 10 minute walk away from the ground. By bus, lines 30, 104, 122, 147, and 196 pass the stadium from various parts of the city.

Although taxi is convenient from the city centre, it was extremely expensive, and we got properly stung by our driver. If you have the time to go by public transport it will save you a fair few Hungarian Forints!

Although a modern stadium with a 13,000 capacity, getting a ticket for an Ujpest game is not difficult by all accounts as average home gates tend to come in at the 3-4,000 mark. A ticket will range from 900 HUF / £3 (on the terrace behind the goal) to 3000 HUF / £10 in the main stands.

As it was a special occasion, we had pre-booked the ‘VIP II’ tickets – basically best seats in the house with access to a bar and buffet before, during and after the match for £30 a head. These were easily arranged by emailing an incredibly helpful guy by the name of Zoltan Forran in the clubs marketing department. His email address is on the main website, and he speaks perfect English which made it all the easier for us!

According to the Ujpest web site the game against MTK is the second most prestigious game in Hungarian football. Having said that I don’t think MTK are a particularly well supported team, so most of the atmosphere was expected to come from the Ujpest ultras that stand on the ‘D Lelato’ stand behind the goal.

Despite the fairly small attendances seen in Hungarian football, the atmospheres are often fiercely partisan. The club website had issued a plea to supporters before the MTK game requesting fans not to use racist and anti semitic chants, or any expressions that would instigate hatred or fear in others. There was also a request for fans not to use pyrotechnical equipment due to sanctions that might be imposed on them by the HFF as a result.

Based on the latter request I would have been surprised if that would have been followed if this video clip from the Ferencvaros v Ujpest derby from the week before is anything to go by. The atmosphere looks pretty hostile and impressive to say the least:

Unfortunately the HFF’s widespread fixture cancellation meant that we would also miss out on the Honved v Ferencvaros match on the Sunday – but at least we found out before turning up at the stadium.

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Lister, Jeff, Nathan and Mark at the deserted Szusza Ferenc Stadium.

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