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Pitch perfect Puskás Aréna

Hungary's national stadium, host of the Europa League final, is a state-of-the-art venue befitting the legend whose name it bears.

UEFA via Getty Images

What’s in a name? For Hungary’s football supporters the answer is: absolutely everything. When the time came to replace the country’s ageing national stadium a few years ago, there was only one option for what to call the superb new venue that was set to be erected in the same location. So goodbye to the Puskás Ferenc Stadion, hello Puskás Aréna.

Like its predecessor, the Puskás Aréna honours the most treasured legend of the Hungarian game, former Honvéd and Real Madrid forward Ferenc Puskás. Beyond that reverence for the three-time European Cup winner, however, the two stadiums could hardly be more different. Opened in 2019, the Puskás Aréna is a thoroughly modern ground, replete with decorative external lighting and a giant roof to protect its crowds of up to 67,000 from the elements – a structure so vast it required one of the largest cranes in the word to install it.

The roof likewise contributes to the stadium’s renowned atmosphere, as do the steep banks of its three-tiered stands, which place supporters close to the action. Indeed, gone is the athletics track ringing the pitch at the previous venue, with today’s spectators guaranteed an immersive experience that has already helped to earn the Puskás Aréna hosting duties for four matches at EURO 2020, as well as the 2020 UEFA Super Cup.

What does remain of the old stadium – originally known as the Népstadion – is the brick building that served as a press centre. It now houses a museum celebrating the venue’s namesake, who was born about 1.5km to the north in the same Zugló district of Budapest. Puskás eventually grew up in the southern neighbourhood of Kispest, and the man who claimed Olympic gold with Hungary in 1952 and reached the 1954 World Cup final is commemorated there too, with a street named in his honour.

Budapest counts down to Europa League final

UEFA's helping hand

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin previously referred to the Puskás Aréna as "the jewel in Hungarian football's crown", and has paid tribute to the Hungarian Football Federation's (MLSZ) achievement and commitment to building new stadiums.

By providing support through its HatTrick assistance programme, UEFA has also played a key role in helping Hungary develop the ‘beautiful game’ at all levels.

Recent initiatives have included the construction of a new MLSZ HQ and renovation of its tactical centre, laying new grassroots pitches and the support of its Football in Schools programme, including training 7,000 teachers to help ensure football becomes an integral part of the curriculum.

This article appears in the official programme for the 2023 Europa League final. As the much-awaited final between Roma and Sevilla draws nearer, you can get stuck into a bundle of football storytelling containing everything from history, culture and food, to tactical analysis, captivating imagery as well as player and coach interviews.

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