They were fabled as one of the greatest teams of all time and came to be known as the Magical Magyars. Some – who witnessed the quality of the side – called them the forerunners of the Dutch Totaal voetbal teams of the 1970’s. For others this was the side that inherited the mantel of the fabled Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930’s.
The Hungarians had come to Wembley in the 1950’s and left a watching English public awestruck. Interest in Hungarian football increased further when Honved embarked on a world tour after being dispatched from the 1956-57 European Cup; a tour that led to the break up of the team such were the number of players who subsequently signed for top foreign sides.
Slick passing, outstanding technique and physicality were expressed in a way never seen before. This was a group of players with skills and technique but held together by the regimentation of the communist era.
Hungary’s golden side of the 1950’s contained no less than 6 or 7 superstars many of whom would go onto play for the likes of Real Madrid (Ferenc Puskas) and Barcelona (Czibor and Kocsis) long before Messi or Ronaldo ever reached Spanish football.
Two figures from the Hungarian ‘Aranycsapat‘ side who stayed loyal to the great Hungarian football time of the 50’s were Hideguti and Bozsik. The great deep lying centre forward Nandor Hideguti enjoyed a glittering playing winning an Olympic gold medal in 1952 and then enjoyed a management career which included two spells coaching at MTK.
Bozsik spent his entire club career at Honved and held playing, administrative and management roles with the side.
Both MTK and Honved named there home stadiums after these great players. The greatest player of that Hungarian side meanwhile – Puskas – has no less than two Hungarian stadia named after him despite escaping to the west and not returning until 1981.
Following on from our stadia no longer with us series this is Part I of a new feature called the ‘Magical Magyars’. It looks at the development of football stadia in the Hungarian capital of Budapest as the city approaches its time as a host for the UEFA European Championships – UEFA Euro 2020.
Part I – Bozsik József Stadium
Hindered by the ravages of the global COVID19 situation the finishing work at the new Budapest Honved arena is due for completion sometime during the first quarter of 2021. The illuminated red-black-white venue is already nearing its opening resplendent in traditional Honvéd colours . Meanwhile a large sign calling it the ‘Bozsik Aréna’ can be seen.
Outside, the new arena is fit for the modern era with its paved entrance plazas and carefully landscaped surroundings. Both grass and concrete – emblazoned with the names of 16 legendary playes – brings a new modern look to the previously open surrounds of Honved.
Outside a lion sculpture is awaiting its debut – this being a club knicknamed ‘The Lions’ – and when the stadium opens it will have room for some 8,500 fans.
Its new modern façade of finished painting, warm tiles and interior furnishings will stand in some contrast to how this stadium previously looked. Past players names are now etched into concrete and sit side by side with corporate logos.
But in 2015 this was still a stadium reminiscent of the communist era. Graffiti strewn imagery of the great Magyar players of the past sat outside the stadium. Towering floodlights hovered like skyscrapers over the often-weather-beaten open laying field.
The new arena with its light illuminations will likely pass all the operational tests needed to make it a host for topflight football.
With its 8,500 capacity the new arena would perhaps hint at a club with modest ambitions. But if you look back through time this was never a gold-plated club despite the great playing names of the past.
Located in the south-eastern district of Kispest this ground comprised largely of a small main stand and a rounded terracing which was blocked from the playing field by a shale track.
Its greatest feature however were the huge leaning floodlight pylons which stood (like 4 generals overseeing an army) domineering in presence over the pitch.
That reference to militarism gives some clue as to whom Honved were as a club during the 50’s.
Constructed in 1939 the stadium for many years had been the host for a sports institution that emerged out of what was essentially a village team. The war brought some change both sports and politics wise and in December 1948 the Kispest title was dropped and the club became Honved.
Due to the Communist reorganisation of Budapest the club was renamed Budapesti Honvéd – the name deriving from ‘Honvedseg’ the name of the Hungarian Army. The word Honvéd, literally means defender of the homeland in Hungarian.
For some years the club played many of its games at the national Nepstadion only returning to Kispest after some modernisation work in the 1980’s. In October 1986 new illuminated lighting were added to the pylons that were erected in 1967 at the stadium and it was named after Bozsik who had become club President and an MP but died in 1978.
There was also a twenty-room Hotel built inside the stadium, with a restaurant for 200 people on the ground floor. Major works were also done at the stadium in 1990 – when the changing rooms and baths were renovated – and the old gymnasium was transformed into a VIP club.
The last major milestones in the history of the Jozsef Bozsik came after the turn of the millenia.
In the summer of 2006 thanks to the Hemingway Group, the owning group of the team a decision was made by new owner George F. Hemingway to create a new sports facility on the site of the old stadium.
Work on the redevelopment project commenced in 2007 with the renovation of the training ground. A new fence was erected around the stadium; and inside 6,000 plastic seats were mounted. The press room, dressing rooms and media focus were also all modernized.
Not overnight but quickly the once crumbling stadium was being redeveloped. The new strategically positioned media and camera spots were quickly making this a space fit for watching eyes and engage further investment.
On 5 August 2018, the last match was played at the old stadium and the demolition contractors were sent in.
New Bozsik Arena
This will be Budapest’s third UEFA Category 4 stadium. But with only 8,200 covered seats it’s the smallest of them all and leaves the clubs best asset somewhat in the shadow of rivals Ferencvaros with its much larger Groupama Arena.
Criticism has again come the way of the Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán for his (alleged) role in helping to finance the stadium. However, modernisation was needed with the perceived dilapidated appearance of the former Jozsef Bozsik Stadion leaving a stigma and hinting at the clubs former guise as a state army club.
What the new ground lacks in tradition and nostalgia it makes up for in feel and comfort. But if this ever was a race to have the best stadium in Hungary then the new Bozsik Arena falls a little bit short of others in Budapest.
Jozsef Bozsik Stadion
Address: 1194 Budapest, XIX.ker., Puskás Ferenc u. 1-3.
Capacity of the stadium: 10,000 people (6,000 seats, 4,000 stands).
The size of the pitch: 105m x 68 m.
Training fields: 2 grass, 1 artificial grass, 1 small artificial grass.