13/06/2024
Home » Second division team in the Hungarian Cup final

In Hungary, the absurd happens and a club from the second division reached the cup final. Budafok, which usually attracts 500 supporters, played in the immense Puskás Aréna against Zalaegerszeg. Who went to Europe?

Contradictions

Budafok is a southern district in Budapest and from the center it easily takes an hour to get to the Promontor Utcai Stadium. This stadium has been built quite a bit in recent years. The new grandstands were made possible by the money of the Hungarian-Australian owner Róbert Bélteky. The capacity is now 2,450 spectators, but that number is never actually reached. That season, Budafok was in the middle of Nemzeti Bajnokság II, the second tier of Hungary.

However, the cup tournament was very different: Budafok defeated one opponent after another. Bölcske, Szeged, Iváncsa, Kisvárda and Vasas all have to give in. Head coach János Mátyus knew how to make his team play attractively in the cup, something that is less successful in the competition. We were present at the home games against Kisvárda FC and Vasas FC, two clubs that are active at the highest level. On a freezing night in March, the quarter-final with Kisvárda attracted only 528 spectators. The semi-final against Vasas was a sold-out house.

The club doesn’t have online sales and so we were at the stadium two hours earlier for the semi-final with Vasas. That turned out to be the right decision, because an hour before the game, the ticket box was locked. Some, including a couple of British groundhoppers we met in the clubhouse after the game, just climbed over the fences to get into the stadium. The lack of security did not manage to keep an overview of the crowd. Péter Beke would become the hero of the evening by scoring a hat-trick within 39 minutes. The fanatical side couldn’t believe her luck and until late at night there was a party in the clubhouse: Budafoki MTE writes history and does the impossible. It will play the cup final in the Puskás Aréna as a second division team.

Final? Sack coach

Zalaegerszegi TE is a club that is known as a mid-table team at the highest level. Head coach Ricardo Moniz got off to a good start and kept his eye on European football for a long time. A blemish on the season, however, is the racism riot by Honvéd Kispest’s supporters. Persistent racist chants led to Moniz and his team leaving the field. Subsequently, the union punished Moniz and he was not allowed to perform his function for months. However, this did not affect the cup adventure. Zalaegerszeg took care of Kazincbarcika, Békéscsaba, Mezőkövesdi-Zsóry and Puskás Akadémia. For the second time in its history, ZTE reaches the cup final.

A week before the final, the management decides to fire Ricardo Moniz. Owner Gábor Végh believes that the game is in a downward trend and therefore wants to create a shock effect. Végh, the man who built his own stadium with state money, appoints Gábor Boér. The trainer he fired two years earlier. Moniz has been deprived of a grand finale, but billionaire Végh won’t care.

The cup tournament had surprises this season, but Budafok and Zalaegerszeg were especially lucky with the draw. Third divisionist Iváncsa knocked Ferencváros out of the tournament, while Puskás Akadémia successively eliminated big clubs such as MOL Fehérvár, Újpest and Debrecen. It is also almost impossible to comprehend: a cup final between Budafok which usually has 500 supporters and Zalaegerszeg which has to make do with 2,000 supporters. Put this in the Puskás Aréna that can hold 67,155 people and you get an absurd picture. Nevertheless, 24,152 tickets are still sold, partly because Zalaegerzeg can count on the support of Ferencváros. Fradi recognises ZTE as the only friend in Hungary.

The Cup Final

Day of the cup final arrives. The newspapers speculate about Budafok as a second division team in Europe, something that happened earlier in 1984 when Siófok Bányász won the cup against Győr. It would be comical, but also a disaster for Hungarian football. The supporters of Budafok go to the stadium by tram and Zalaegerszeg organizes buses and trains to get to Budapest. From the Keleti Pályaudvar train station, ZTE and Fradi are marching, where a good dose of pyro is already being set off. Everyone in the march is wearing special shirts that are made for the finals and they are brimming with confidence. ZTE couldn’t lose to Budafok, could they?

In the stadium we see blue-white and red-black choreography. Budafok’s supporters are doing their best, but the small number of supporters makes it look a bit sad. On the other hand, Zalaegereszeg creates a blue and white sea with the letters ZTE. This comes out better considering the sold-out first ring. It is striking that ZTE’s pyro is tolerated, and security intervenes at Budafok. The few supporters of Budafok who hold a torch in the air are picked out and taken away. Zalaegerszeg and the friends of Ferencváros are happy to do anything, perhaps Fradi’s connections have something to do with this.

The match between the mid-table teams of the first and second divisions is of a hideous level. In ninety minutes of football, hardly a ball goes on goal and therefore extra time is needed. For a long time, it seemed that Budafok would be able to win a penalty shootout, but then Dániel Németh scored from a nice combination play. When Szabolcs Szalay brilliantly shoots a free kick into the goal, the party erupts: Zalaegereszeg enters Europe for the first time since 2010 and wins its first cup. Budafok can be very proud of her cup adventure. The club almost repeated the fairy tale of Siófok in 1984.

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