By Márton Dinnyés and Denis Orlov
Maybe the biggest name in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round, Hungarian side Ferencvárosi TC have had to cope with off-the-field unrest ahead of their match against FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk.
The Budapest team contested two finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the forerunner to the UEFA Cup, in the 1960s, winning in 1965 but these are leaner times for Ferencváros and the frustration came to a head at the end of last season. Having ceded the title to Debreceni VSC, they then capitulated in the Hungarian Cup final, losing 5-1 to Matáv Football Club Sopron and ending the game with eight men.
Their refusal to participate in the medals ceremony means they will play no part in the competition this term. Since that inglorious climax to the campaign, three of Ferencváros's most important players, Hungarian internationals Szabolcs Huszti and Dénes Rósa and striker Thomas Sowunmi, have expressed a desire to move on.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for the club, who look to have an exciting crop of youngsters coming through. The likes of László Bartha, Árpád Nógrádi and Zsolt Laczkó have all impressed in their handful of appearances and coach Csaba László is hoping that with home advantage on Thursday, they rise to the task.
"We've a lot of young players and they really need support from the crowd," said László, who will be without Péter Lipcsei for the first leg. "We know very little about Minsk but we're aware they have a very dangerous striker. If we can stop him we can ensure qualification in Budapest."
Although he did not name him, the forward László was referring to is Artsyom Kantsevy, who has scored a hat-trick in MTZ-RIPO's last two outings to help the side to fourth spot in Belarus's Premier League.
Like his Hungarian counterpart, coach Yuri Puntus has personnel problems of his own, with Sergei Tsvetinski and Denis Fedorov injured, the latter succumbing during the Belarus Cup final victory in May. That earned MTZ-RIPO a European berth, some achievement for a team making their top-flight debut.
Their league form has been less impressive but Kantsevy's goals have capped a run of five wins in six games, and Puntus is keen for that to continue in Budapest. "They [Ferencváros] are favourites, but we want to go through too. Our aim is not to concede. Actually, my team's task is to get to the UEFA Cup group stage." László would doubtless echo that sentiment.
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