Ferencvárosi TC are aiming high in the UEFA Cup under charismatic coach Csaba László.
By Peterjon Cresswell
Csaba László is regarded as something of a maverick in Hungary. The Ferencvárosi TC coach, who has breathed life into the Hungarian champions, was in defiant mood at a fans' forum in Budapest ahead of the club's debut in the UEFA Cup group stage against Feyenoord.
"I read somewhere that Feyenoord were five goals better than us," said the much-travelled 40-year-old. "I'm going to pin that article up in the dressing room to motivate my players on Thursday night.
"We have to give it our all," László added. "I won't be satisfied with just qualification - I want us to beat the two star teams in the group Feyenoord and [FC] Schalke . We have to reach that level. Winning the Hungarian title and cup all the time, that's natural. We won't be successful just by doing that."
Since arriving at the club in July, the little-known László has tried to bring training methods and attitudes he learned in Germany to Hungary. With no Hungarian clubs nor the national team making any great impact on the major stage for decades, László's struggle is an uphill one - but this is the kind of situation with which he is more than familiar.
Growing up in a Hungarian-speaking region of Transylvania in Nicolae Ceausescu's Romania, László learned his football the hard way. "Life under the regime was brutal," he said. "It was especially hard for Hungarians living there. We used to secretly listen to Ferencváros matches on the radio. And we were big fans of English football, too."
László played for his local team, Székélyudvarhely FC, but by the time he was 20 he had fled the country. As a political dissident, László went to Germany, where he played at SC Bayer 05 Uerdingen. A knee injury ended his career, so László went into coaching, gaining his diploma from the Deutsche Sporthochschule.
He was working as a youth team coach at VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach when new Hungary coach Lothar Matthäus invited him to Budapest to work with his squad. "For me it was a dream come true," said László. "The chance to work with such a legend and to coach in Hungary for the first time."
After helping Hungary to a string of positive results at friendly level - including a 2-0 win over Germany in June - László then landed the biggest job in the country: coach of Ferencváros. "No one was more surprised than me to hear from Ferencváros," he said. "To manage them is not just a job, it's a calling."
Leading the league by six clear points and qualifying for the UEFA Cup, László has more than answered that call. Now with two tough home games against Feyenoord and FC Basel 1893 switched to the national Ferenc Puskás stadium, and difficult ties at Schalke and Heart of Midlothian FC in the same group, László needs to generate the kind motivation only he can muster.
Ferencváros are also going into their first game without inspirational midfield player Dénes Rósa who is suspended after picking up three yellow cards. But László still played down the threat from Feyenoord: "In Hungary, we are making bigger stars out of Feyenoord than they do in Holland! What have we got to be afraid of?" If their ability is as rich as their confidence, Feyenoord may well be in for a shock.