Budapest plans to bring a touch of nostalgic charm to its sophisticated new stadium as it prepares to host EURO 2020.
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With a new stadium set to open its turnstiles and famous Hungarian player Zoltán Gera on board as a host city ambassador, Budapest is already getting the party started to welcome EURO 2020. The Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) president, Sándor Csányi, shares the federation’s plans to transform the football landscape in Budapest next summer, while celebrating fond memories.
One of the biggest attractions for both visiting and local fans will be the opening of the new, 68,000-capacity facility. The Ferenc Puskás Stadium is currently under construction on the same site that was home to the original Népstadion (People’s Stadium) from 1953 until its closure in 2016.
Sándor Csányi underlines the importance of retaining the character and nostalgic charm of the old stadium, while moving into a new era: “The [old] Puskás stadium is very important for us as it served Hungarian football for more than 40 years. It even held double derbies where around 100,000 fans were present. Unfortunately, it had to be demolished due to technical issues, but to replace it we are building a large stadium for some 68,000 spectators with up-to-date technology and an excellent pitch. For the outside, we tried to preserve the characteristics of the old stadium, with the columns and pillars that used to be there.
“I hope it will be a joy not only to play in the new stadium. but to be there as a spectator as well. We were really nervous about whether the stadium would be ready on time, but now I can comfortably say that it will be ready on schedule to host competitions at the appropriate level and quality.”
Qualification is key
On the field, Hungary are aiming to qualify for the final tournament, which Sándor Csányi recognises is no easy task for head coach Marco Rossi and his team. “Obviously, we really want to be there in 2020 at the EURO, but all the European teams feel the same way,” the MLSZ president says. “Everyone must do all they can to get there. I am also sure that Marco Rossi and his team will do their best to get there. Whether that will be enough, how lucky we are and how well our opponents play will depend on many things. I don’t think I can’t say that we will definitely be there, but I wouldn’t say that there is no chance for us. It is fifty-fifty.”
Meanwhile, Hungary’s adventures at EURO 2016 in France three years ago are still prominent in the memory of Csányi. “For me, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life to see those matches, mainly because we had arrived there without a chance,” he says. “However, I really didn’t want us to lose our first match, and we didn’t; we won (2-0 v Austria). In the second match, we drew (1-1 with Iceland) and in the third, we drew 3-3 against Portugal, who went on to become European champions.”
The euphoria of Hungary’s progression to the round of 16 is something Csányi wants to see repeated, especially when dreaming of playing on home soil at EURO 2020. “It was a fantastic experience, and it was fantastic to see how happy the Hungarian people, the Hungarian fans were with this victory. In Marseille (for the second group match), there were nearly 40,000 Hungarian fans supporting the team, and at the same time in Budapest, with the help of various screens, thousands upon thousands of people were watching the match, and after the qualification [reaching the round of 16], they poured onto the streets to celebrate. Well, I can imagine what would happen in Budapest if the Hungarian team won in Budapest, at the Puskás stadium. It would be a huge celebration for the Hungarian nation and for the people of Budapest.”
Giving back to Budapest
Sándor Csányi regards this unique EURO format as an opportunity to give something back to Budapest, as well as to build a legacy for football throughout Hungary. Describing it as recognition for the work the federation has carried out to date, the MLSZ president also believes there are further opportunities for development. “I think that every host city in this EURO can take this as a sign of appreciation. In the past few years, we have been doing a lot to develop the infrastructure of Hungarian football. We have made serious efforts in grassroots football, at youth level and in women’s football. We’ve built some 1,100 football pitches or more and redeveloped about 1,800 pitches. First and second-division teams got new stadiums or the old ones were redeveloped. We’ve also multiplied the number of registered footballers in Hungary: the current total number is three times more than ten years ago.”
“Our football is evolving. Our women’s and men’s Under-17 and Under-19 national teams have qualified for the elite rounds in their respective UEFA competitions, which didn’t happen very often before. And we were successful in the EURO 2016 qualifiers and in the finals too. This is an acknowledgement also for this work. I think this EURO can give us a new boost for the development of Hungarian football and will attract even more kids into the stadiums.”
Widely considered as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the Hungarian capital owes its name to the merger of Buda and Óbuda, on the west bank of the Danube, with Pest on the east. The river continues to serve as an important waterway in a city boasting around 80 geothermal springs and teeming with Gothic, baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau delights – to name just a few of the architectural styles on show. Football has left its mark as well, with Budapest producing many of the Magical Magyars from Hungary’s heyday in the 1950s, including Ferenc Puskás. Due to open next year on the site of the old Ferenc Puskás Stadium, the UEFA EURO 2020 venue will again immortalise the legendary Budapesti Honvéd and Real Madrid forward.
16 June: Group F match
20 June: Group F match
24 June: Group F match
28 June: Round of 16 match
Ferenc Puskás Stadium
This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct 184