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Puskás's example to inspire Pancho Aréna hopefuls

The first major stadium to be built in Hungary in 40 years, the Pancho Aréna is hoping to nurture the next Ferenc Puskás, with a statue of 'Öcsi' inspiring the youngsters.

Amancio Amaro and José Pirri in the shadow of their old team-mate at the Ferenc Puskás academy
Amancio Amaro and José Pirri in the shadow of their old team-mate at the Ferenc Puskás academy ©www.pfla.hu

"This is an investment in children," said former Hungary coach Lothar Matthäus as the opening of a new mini-stadium coincided with the unveiling of a statue of Ferenc Puskás.

One of the venues for this summer's UEFA European Under-19 Championship, the 4,000-capacity Pancho Aréna in Felcsut, 25km from Budapest, was built with the full approval of the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ), and following site visits from UEFA.

The first major stadium to be completed in Hungary since Ferencvárosi TC's Albert Stadion in 1974, the arena was full to capacity for the 2014 Puskás-Suzui Cup final between the Under-17 teams of Real Madrid CF and Puskás Akadémia FC on 21 April.

It then hosted its first international fixture two days later when Hungary's U19s beat their Turkish counterparts 5-2. The stadium will be the home of the Puskás Academy's top-tier adult side but the intention is for the venue to be mainly for the academy.

Monday's inauguration celebrations were preceded by the unveiling by Hungarian prime minister and academy founder Viktor Orbán of a statue of Puskás outside the Ferenc Puskás Football Academy's main building. The player's widow, Erzsébet, was among the honoured guests, along with Puskás's fellow 'Magical Magyars' of the 1950s, Jenõ Buzánszky and Pál Várhidi, and his former Real Madrid CF team-mates Amancio Amaro and José Pirri.

Pirri said: "All the plaudits that are given to 'Öcsi' (Puskás) are very, very, highly deserved. It was a great honour for us that we could play with him. We weren't just friends; he was a teacher to us. If I could sum up what we feel towards Öcsi, when we say his name, if we are sitting, we stand up!"

Amancio added: "When I arrived at Real Madrid as a young player, Puskás was already a veteran, a big star. I feel that he was the one who helped us young players the most and could tell us the most. He was a great, great player, and he really helped the young players a lot. When I first joined Madrid, I even had dinner at Öcsi's flat.

"The Pancho Aréna really is beautiful," he added. "We really do feel honoured to be here. When I was young the Hungarian team was always very strong, very good. It can be hoped that [with the help of this new stadium and the academy], future generations will also become big names like Bene, Zámbó, Puskás, Kocsis, Czibor."

Former Germany midfielder Lothar Matthäus, who led the Hungarian national team from 2004–06, felt similarly positive as he toured the facility. "This is a very good investment because it is good for the future, the next 30, 40 and 50 years," he said. "This is an investment in children to give them a place to play football and watch football. Puskás should be an idol forever for football players here and this is very important."