By Márton Dinnyés
When Debreceni VSC won their first ever Hungarian First Division title last Sunday, the whole of Hungary breathed a sigh of relief.
Having won Hungarian Cups in 1999 and 2001, and defeated the likes of VfL Wolfsburg and FC Girondins de Bordeaux in UEFA Cup games at their Oláh Gábor utcai stadium in the last four years, the Debrecen-based team had long been regarded as one of the finest teams in the country.
Finishing third in the league in 2002/03, they led the table by one point going into their final match of the 2003/04 campaign at second-placed Ferencvárosi TC. A 3-1 defeat in that game at the Ülloi úti stadium, coinciding with a win for Újpesti TE, saw them finish third again.
A 5-1 win against Békéscsabai EFC last weekend finally secured Debrecen the Hungarian title that had eluded them, putting them nine points ahead of Budapest-based Ferencváros with three games of the season remaining. Finally, there was relief for coach Attila Supka.
"It was hard from me at first because I was not a big name and I was expected to lead the team to the title," admitted Supka. "I could have said positive things if we hadn't won the title, but the only thing that coaches are judged on is results."
While the final margin of victory was an impressive one, Debrecen's season was not entirely smooth. With former Hungarian international striker Lázár Szentes at the helm, Debrecen started the season well enough, but the club's supporters were not enamoured of the team's cautious tactics. Things came to a head when Szentes was abused by supporters following a 1-1 draw at Pápa TFC. The coach left the club, and was replaced by Supka in early November.
Having lost just three games and drawn twice, Debrecen went into the winter break three points adrift of Ferencváros, but as their main rivals for the title suffered a wave of financial problems, it became clear that Debrecen and fellow-provincials, Györi ETO FC, would be title favourites in the spring.
While Györ seemed to have started the new year strongest, winning their opening two games against Ferencváros and Debrecen, it was Supka's side who proved to be the pace-setters, taking top spot after the 19th game of the campaign and not relinquishing it, while losing just one more game against Újpest.
To the delight of captain and playmaker Tamás Sándor, Debrecen were in a class of their own. "
This is exactly why I'm here," said the former Torino Calcio, Gençlerbirligi SK and Beitar Jerusalem FC player as Debrecen celebrated last Sunday. "When I decided to came back to Hungary three years ago I only wanted to play for Debrecen and for only one reason: to win the championship for this great city."
The win against Békéscsaba prompted celebrations in Debrecen's main square, but the big party will most likely happen this Saturday as Supka's men finally receive the winners' trophy as they play host to Pécsi MFC. In the meantime, Sándor is already hoping success will bring the builders to Debrecen.
"I hope that after this great success something will happen with our small stadium," he said. "There are always thousands of supporters locked out for games as it only holds around 8,000. The club can't solve this problem alone. We want to play in the UEFA Champions League and for that we need a modern stadium."
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