Due to an improbable series of events, I ended up being interviewed on Hungarian national media for creating an Instagram account about statues (@statuesofbudapest – should you be curious). The topic of the interview turned to football and I mentioned how I’d come to support Vasas since arriving in Budapest (namely – I like underdogs and the shared ironworking history of Vasas and Middlesbrough).
To my surprise an email from the club arrived a few days later, inviting me to come and tour their new (nearly-completed) stadium. I’d been curious about “home” for Vasas since I came here, having only seen the team play at their temporary ground in Újpest and felt honoured that the club had taken the time to get in touch.
Stadium tours still hold a magic for me. I remember my first one at Ayresome Park as being a tantilising peek behind the curtain into a world every kid wants to be part of. Even as an adult teacher taking school trips to the Riverside I was rapt looking at George Hardwick’s Great Britain shirt and the Anglo-Scottish Cup replica.
So I set off last Friday morning, caught the bus to Fáy Street and was met at the gates by Sándor – my translator for the day and one of the club’s communication team.
We started the tour with a brief speech from Project Manager Mihály Tóth, which Sándor dutifully translated for me. Then, hard hat and hi-vis vest on, we went into the stadium.
Built on the site of the old Illovszky Rudolf Stadium (the club’s home since 1960), the new ground will have a capacity of just over 5000 in a fully-enclosed area, meaning the atmosphere will be class on a wet Wednesday evening. I love grounds this size – they’re so intimate and give fans a real connection to the players. They can provide that cauldron atmosphere that makes football special, rather than the empty hollow Vasas have been sharing recently (sorry Újpest – you get your new ground next).
There’s something special about an empty stadium which has been explained a million times before with greater eloquence than I could ever muster. It’s the potential and expectation. It’s the quiet where there should be noise, the stillness where movement should reign. It’s something that speaks to all football fans that you could just run onto that grass right now if you wanted to. You’d probably get kicked out, but you could, just for a second, be on that untrodden turf and live out all those Billy the Fish dreams. Whether at the Nou Camp or Mount Pleasant, the itch is the same.
Similarly, I imagine the team are itching to be back in a place they call home, rather than being lodgers at Újpest. To play where you train, surrounded by the streets your supporters call home will be a big advantage next term.
Mihály is an excellent guide, taking us round every nook and cranny of the place while Sándor translates. Interestingly the executive boxes are all named after other Budapest teams, a nod not only to Vasas’s eschewal of the kind of violent rivalry “enjoyed” by Újpest FC and Ferencváros, but how the history between the five main Budapest clubs and has shaped Vasas. It’s a small thing, but tells a little something about the ethos of Angyalföld.
It’s a beautiful stadium (well done Mihály and team) and I’m sure the club will have many twists and turns there in the future.
I’d like to thank everyone at the club – especially Sándor Dobos, Mihály Tóth and Daniel Jenkei – for the warm welcome and the tour (and the Vasas almanac which will make my historical blogging a million times easier!). I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been as a newcomer to the club to receive this goodwill, and can’t wait to see the team back home where they belong.
Hajrá Vasas! Hajrá Angyalföld!