The chance to say goodbye to legendary players and a legendary stadium at the same time is a rare one by any stretch of the imagination, but such an opportunity was afforded to the faithful of Ferencvárosi TC, Hungary's most popular and successful side.
On Sunday they paid tribute to recently retired favourites such as Krisztián Lisztes, a veteran of the club's only UEFA Champions League campaign in 1995/96, and Péter Lipcsei, member of the 1991/92 European Cup Winners' Cup squad, who participated in a an exhibition match – the last played in the soon-to-be demolished Albert Flórián Stadium before construction on a new arena begins on the same site.
Among other Ferencváros luminaries enjoying a final run-out on the turf were Attila Dragóner, who competed for Hungary at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Dénes Rósa and Zoltán Balog, Hungarian league and cup double winners with 'Fradi' in 2004, and József Keller who did the same double twice in the preceding decade.
Lisztes was understandably reflective afterwards. "It was a great experience for me to be on the same pitch again with some of my old team-mates and the younger players too. It was a memorable way to say goodbye to the stadium."
Lipcsei echoed those sentiments but looked to the future too. "The crowd were wonderful in the way they said farewell," said the 41-year-old. "I have great memories of this pitch and it will be painful when it is torn up, but I think the new stadium will be beautiful and I hope children, families and grandfathers come to experience more great matches there."
Sunday's visitors were Romania's UEFA Champions League representatives CFR 1907 Cluj, an appropriate opponent with whom the club enjoyed many battles in the past when Transylvania was part of Hungarian territory.
The carnival atmosphere was naturally tinged with sadness at the prospect of losing a stadium named after Fradi's greatest player, forward Flórián Albert, the 1967 European Footballer of the Year, and the scene of numerous triumphs since its first reconstruction in 1974.
After a pre-match parade, the first half was made memorable by several standing ovations for club legends as they were substituted on and off. Juha Hakola had a penalty saved, which was as close as they came to a goal, and it was left to the organisers to provide one final flourish with a colourful firework display. The thousands of fans were left in no doubt that the new ground will be home to many more spectacular moments in the future.
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