Despite the appearance by Pele, Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and Max von Sydow the 1981 movie Escape to Victory was not actually filmed in Paris. Instead the football stadium scenes were shot inside the home of MTK Budapest possibly because the film is based on the Hungarian movie Két félidő a pokolban or The Last Goal.
While a football ground on the site had existed for some years the last stadium was opened on 1947 and served as the home for MTK until 2014.
After the last game the stadium was demolished and the ground cleared. Instead of moving away to a completely new site the dead were honoured with a new arena named after its greatest ever player and built on the site between 2015–16.
This is a new series of articles called the ‘Magical Magyars’, a series of articles dedicated to the football stadia of Budapest – a host city for the 2020 UEFA European Championships.
Part II – MTK Budapest
MTK Budapest (Magyar Testgyakorlok Kore) are one of the traditional giants of the Hungarian game. Formed in 1888 by Jewish sporting enthusiasts from the Magyar Testgyakorlók Köre (Circle of Hungarian Fitness Activists) the club were once one of the most dominant forces in Central European Football.
Its greatest ever modern era side finished as runners up in the 1964 version of the European Cup Winners Cup. A replay defeat to Sporting Lisbon after the likes of Celtic and Fenerbache were beaten in Budapest. The team that had escaped the shackles of the communist secret police became the first ever Hungarian side to reach a UEFA Final.
Tagged as the Örökrangadó or the Eternal derby MTK’s big rivals are Ferencvaros – the traditional giants of the Hungarian game. Many of the early derby matches between the two were witnessed at the one time home of the club the MTK Stadion or as it was also known the Hungaria Koruti.
By 1912 Europe was a few years away from the commencement of World War I. However Hungary as a state had been for a number of years moving out of the shadow of the much more powerful and centralised Vienna.
The two realms which made up the geographical area were governed separately by two parliaments from the two capital cities.
Economically, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been a customs union and in the 20th century the old Hungarian Constitution had been restored. Increasing commercialism, sporting institutions and industrial identity were emerging as was an increased sense of Hungarian identity.
Back in 1873, the old capital Buda and Obuda was officially united with Pest creating the new metropolis of Budapest.
The Hungária körúti stadion was opened in 1912 and served as the home for MTK Budapest until 1945. Back then in the pre-war period, as has happened now, a stadium race happened in Budapest.
MTK Budapest’s arch rival Ferencvaros had opened its new stadium in 1911 which prompted MTK Budapest to start the construction of a new stadium of its own.
After the Second World War – a war that had seen many of the clubs Jewish followers and management perish at Auschwitz – the original stadium was demolished and a new stadium built.
In 1949 when Hungary became a communist state MTK were taken over by the secret police or the AVH and subsequently changed names on several occiasions to the reflect this communist institution.
The club became known as Textiles SE then became Bástya SE, then Vörös Lobogó SE which roughly translates as Red Banner or Red Flag.
The key player of the 1950’s was Nandor Hudegkuti and in 1955, as Vörös Lobogó SE they became the first ever Hungarian team to play in the European Cup. Defeating Anderlecht they eventually fell to Stade Reims despite being favourites to reach the final against Real.
Following the 1956 uprising some semblance of change in club identity set in and the next time they appeared in the European Cup they were known as MTK.
The körúti stadium had opened on 31 March 1912 with a match which ended in a 1–0 victory for the hosts. Also, in the autumn of 1912, the construction of a club house has began opening in December 1913.
By 1950 the ground was, like Honved, open to the elements of a Hungarian winter. Yet it was distinctive for its domineering floodlights as well as its close almost next door proximity to a neighbouring club – BKV Elore.
With its terraced ends and views to nearby tower apartments it had one solitory stand which had seen far better days long before 2014.
IÚj Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium
If a stadium race was evident in 1911 so by 2011 the same thing was happening again. Ferencvaros wanted a new stadium as did Honved, Ujpest and just about every senior club in Budapest.
Despite not being the force they once had been in the glory days the Új Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium was inaugurated on 13 October 2016 with a match against Sporting Lisbon the club they had played in the 1964 ECWC final.
According to UEFA it corresponds to a modern category 3 facility capable of hosting both Champions League and Europa League games unlike its crumbling and outdated predecessor.
With a hybrid turf system the Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium is lit up by an LED system. Technical advancement is therefore critical to the stadium’s design both in terms of playing and corporate facilities.
As with most new stadia the stadium combines both an aesthetic appearance with favorable technical properties. Moreover, the stadium is environmentally friendly with facilities for storing 535 fan bicycles.
Externally the stadium has an attractive unique facade proving popular with visitors for its colour and design.
While the old stadium could host up to 25,000 fans the new construction has seating for only 5,200 fans about 750 of which are VIP and skyboxes. The somwhat humble capacity is a factor indictive of the drop in fan interest in the domestic Hungarian game but in line with MTK’s expectations and ticketing demand.
Despite the club’s rich history, MTK are hardly the most popular side in Budapest. The European UEFA level capacity of the old stadium was around the same level as the new stadium regardless of large terracing which dominated its landscape.
The entire stadium has a feel of sitting on top of a large pedestal, which will comprise club offices, commercial outlets and a sports museum, among other facilities.
Hungaria Korut Stadium (MTK Stadion), VIII Javor utca 5
First created: 1912
Capacity: 24,000 (5,500 seats)