The 2002/03 domestic season in Hungary gets under way tomorrow.
It is back to business in the NB I., Hungary's first division, this Friday as the 2002/03 season opens with MTK Hungária's match against Videoton FCF. As the new term approaches, the mood of clubs in the top flight contrasts from optimism at Zalaegerszegi TE, Újpesti TE and Ferencváros - the country's European hopefuls - to anxiety at Kispest-Honvéd FC.
Kispest are in deep trouble after struggling to raise the funds they needed for admission into the first division, and in the process losing many of their better players, including Hungarian Under-21 midfield player Norbert Német to Györi ETO FC and striker István Faragó to Zalaegerszeg, the reigning champions. It is against Kispest that Zalaegerszeg, who face Croatia's NK Zagreb in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League next week, open their campaign on Saturday.
Faragó will face his former team as one of several new faces in the Zalaegerszeg ranks along with Hungarian international Otto Vincze from Germany's FC Energie Cottbus and the Yugoslavian Sasa Ilic. If the departure of Hungary striker Róbert Waltner to Argentina's CA Boca Juniors is a loss, Zalaegerszeg's title defence will also not be helped by coach Péter Bozsik's absence from the bench as he does not hold a UEFA A licence. From this season the Hungarian Football Federation has ruled that only coaches holding the qualification can work in the NB I..
Újpesti TE's new Slovakian coach László Molnár is in the same predicament as Bozsik. But on the plus side, the Hungarian Cup winners would appear to have a very strong squad. They may have lost last season's Cup final hero Robert Vágner, who moved to Energie Cottbus along with Zsolt Löw, but they have compensated by signing a number of Hungarian internationals, namely Henrik Rósa, Zoltán Kovács, Ferenc Horváth and Tamás Juhár.
There is a strong sense of anticipation at Ferencváros, second last season and favourites to finish top this term, who have sold a record number of season tickets and bolstered their squad accordingly. Lining up alongside the two-time NB I. top scorer Attila Tököli - signed from Dunaferr SE - will be Brazilian midfield player Leandro de Almeida and Romanian international midfield player Bogdan Andone. A number of promising young players, such as Slovakian forward Attila Pinte, have also been attracted to the club, who will play AEL Limassol FC in next month's UEFA Cup qualifying round.
The 1999 champions MTK, who pushed Zalaegerszeg all the way last season, are relatively unchanged, coach Sándor Egervári signing only two new new players in Aliou Dragan and Valeriu Andronic, both acquired from clubs in Romania. It has been a busier summer at Debreceni VSC who, under new coach Lázár Szentes, have brought back to the club two Hungarian international midfield players, Tamás Sándor and Tibor Dombi.
It will be interesting to see how former national team coach János Csank fares with newly promoted Siófok FC, winners of the second division's western section. Siófok's chances are boosted by the arrival of former internationals Attila Kuttor and Károly Erös as well as the acquisition of talented young U21 defender Olivér Pusztai.