LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Ferencváros

Record champions gain fifth straight title in 2023

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Practically untouchable at home, where the Green Eagles have won five straight titles since 2019, Ferencváros (‘Fradi’ or FTC) enjoyed a decent European run in 2022-23. Beating all three of their opponents in the group stage of the Europa League, including Monaco, Fradi headed into spring with European competition to look forward to.

Defeat to Bayer Leverkusen didn’t hint at what was to follow in July 2023, a shock 0-3 reverse to KÍ of the Faroes, which led to the sacking of Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov.

The upset silenced the fanatical home support FTC enjoy at the Groupama Aréna, built on the site of the old Albert Flórián Stadion in record time for the visit of Chelsea in a curtain-raising friendly in 2014.

Five years later, a long-awaited 30th league title in the bag, Fradi stopped flopping in Europe to beat CSKA Moscow and twice draw with Espanyol in the Europa League. The following season, a win at Celtic under their belts, Ferencváros made the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since 1995.

The other significant element in the club’s rise on the European stage is Gábor Kubatov. This ex-MP for Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz was again voted in as club president on the same day in October 2022 that Ferencváros achieved a vital draw at home to Monaco to finish top of their group.

Installed as club president in 2011, it was Kubatov who helped raise the Ft13.5 billion/€40 million for the stadium rebuild. Ferencváros are and always will be Hungary’s most popular club, partly due to the fact that they remained the party in opposition during the harsh years of Communism.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing since the change of political régime. The decade between the title win of 2004 and stadium opening was been the worst in the club’s history. Later in 2004, a last-gasp goal by Sparta Prague pinched a group-stage berth from Ferencváros in the Champions League. Shocking mismanagement then led to the financial difficulties that forced the FA to send the club down a division in 2006.

An ever-present in the Hungarian elite since 1901, Fradi reacted poorly to the ignominy of lower-flight football, requiring three long seasons to achieve promotion. In the meantime, British businessman Kevin McCabe, then owner of Sheffield United, bought the club, prime real estate, debts and all, in February 2008. Ambitious plans for a stadium rebuild were announced. In 2011, the Hungarian government bought the club from McCabe’s company, and reworked the redevelopment.

The last official game at the old ground was a 2-1 win by Fradi over age-old rivals Újpest before a near capacity crowd on a national holiday weekend.

The club’s name refers to the IX district of Budapest where it was co-founded by lawyer Ferenc Springer in 1899. By the time they moved to their current site on Üllői út in 1911, FTC had five titles under their belt. Fittingly, Fradi’s first goal at Üllői út was scored by the prolific Imre Schlosser, who notched 400-plus for Ferencváros and then great rivals MTK either side of World War I. 1938 World Cup star, one-club stalwart Dr György Sárosi, assumed Schlosser’s mantle to gain five titles with 350 goals in the 1930s and 1940s.

Forced to change their name to Kinizsi and colours from green and white to red under the post-war structure that favoured Honvéd and Újpest, FTC were unspoken anti-Communists – the bitterest fighting during the 1956 Uprising against the Soviet-backed authorities took place not far from their ground.

The club came good again in the 1960s. Spearheaded by 1967 European Footballer of the Year Flórián Albert, Fradi made two European finals, winning the Fairs Cup in 1965. A decade later, with attacking midfielder Tibor Nyilasi, FTC made the Cup Winners Cup final in 1975, beating Kevin Keegan’s Liverpool on the way.

That season was Fradi’s first at the newly built Üllői út stadium, later named after Albert, whose namesake son played in the next great Fradi side. With Nyilasi as coach, FTC won the championship in 1992, the side starring András ‘Manci’ Telek and Péter Lipcsei going on to win the titles in 1995 and 1996.

Fradi made a debut appearance in the Champions League in 1995, a campaign marred by disgraceful behaviour by the club’s notoriously right-wing following against holders Ajax. A year later, FTC beat Alan Shearer’s Newcastle 3-2 in the UEFA Cup thanks to a brace by key midfielder Krisztián Lisztes.

Wins over Millwall and Hearts featured in the creditable UEFA Cup campaign of 2004-05 that followed the late, heartbreaking defeat by Sparta Prague in the Champions League.

It took three long seasons for Fradi to return to the top after their enforced relegation, promotion eventually achieved in 2009 under ex-Derby striker Bobby Davison. A string of managers then failed to lift Fradi above the top provincial clubs now dominating the Hungarian league.

After the departure of Dutch trainer Ricardo Moniz, FTC hired Thomas Doll and gained a European place in 2014-15. Zoltán Gera, a title-winner with Fradi in 2004 before successful stints at WBA and Fulham, also returned that year. 

With bullish striker Dániel Böde and precocious midfielder Ádám Nagy, the trio played a key role in Hungary’s long-awaited qualification for a major finals, Euro 2016. The vital last play-off game with Norway in November 2015 provided the Groupama Aréna with a night to remember – followed by Ferencváros taking a record 29th title that spring.

Coach Doll was kept in place for the 2017-18 campaign, which failed to see a 30th league crown. Former Spurs star Serhiy Rebrov then replaced Doll after ignominious European failure early in the 2018-19 season, and FTC won the league at a canter.

His side utterly dominant in the league title, Rebrov then turned his attention to Europe. Turning tricky winger Tokmac Nguen into a proven goalscorer, Rebrov oversaw a victory over spirited Lithuanians Süduva at a near full house in Budapest to guarantee passage to the group stage of the Europa League in 2019. 

Evenly matched in most games, Fradi came awfully close to dispatching Espanyol in the penultimate game for a place in the knock-out round as two stoppage-time goals put the Hungarians ahead, then pegged them back. His players nonetheless buoyed with confidence, the atmosphere at the Groupama Aréna ferocious, with ever-more inventive pre-match displays, Rebrov’s Fradi then swept through the qualifying stage of the Champions League in 2020.

Reaching the group stages for the first time in a quarter of a century, Ferencváros gave a disciplined display at an empty Celtic Park. Playing during the pandemic summer of 2020, the Hungarians struck early thanks to a long-range effort from the ever-smiling Dávid Sigér, kept the Scots at bay then took the lead again as Celtic tired. A blistering run from Nguen, known to Fradi fans as simply Tokmac, a Norwegian international born to South Sudanese parents in a refugee camp in Darfur, culminated in a classy finish.

With little chance in the Champions League group stage against the giants of Barcelona and Juventus, the Fradi players, some now in Hungary’s successful national squad, gained valuable experience against the world’s best. Midfielder Sigér, goalkeeper Dénes Dibusz and defender Endre Botka upped their games to come into the international reckoning as the Magyars qualified for another major finals in 2019.

For five years until the opening of the new-build Puskás Aréna in late 2019, the Groupama Aréna became Hungary’s de facto national stadium, the atmosphere for vital qualifying games as fiery as Fradi’s.

A narrow, high-scoring aggregate defeat to Young Boys prevented another stab at the group stage in 2021 though Fradi gave a reasonable account of themselves when thrown in with Celtic, Bayer Leverkusen and Betis in the Europa League later that autumn.

By now, Rebrov had taken the club as far as he could and headed for the UAE. A first posting outside of German-speaking Europe for the experienced Viennese coach Peter Stöger proved a step too far, so in came Stanislav Cherchesov. Turning Fradi’s 2021-22 season around, the Russia manager from the 2018 World Cup led FTC to their first double since 2016.

With another Norwegian international, Kristoffer Zachariassen, hitting prime form, Fradi reversed the aggregate in a bitter clash with Slovan Bratislava in a 2022-23 Champions League qualifier. Thirty years after horrific scenes in the Slovak capital between local riot police and Fradi fans, the club gained revenge of sorts with an emphatic away win, 4-1. 

Failing to repeat the feat against Qarabag in Baku, Ferencváros fell into a tricky Europa League group but were kicked into gear by the ever inventive Tokmac. Somewhat sidelined as other clubs snooped around for him, the Norwegian justified his selection by ghosting into the box to open the scoring early in the first game against Trabzonspor. 

Taking three points to Monaco, Fradi duly shocked the recent French champions with a late strike that settled the tie. After two tight, fiery fixtures with near neighbours Red Star Belgrade, FTC hosted Monaco, the ultras’ display riffing on the theme of Formula 1 on a memorable night at the Groupama Aréna. A late equaliser from Zachariassen, put through by a superb pass from his compatriot Tokmac, sent the stadium crazy and Ferencváros to the knock-out stages of the Europa League. 

The final took place in Budapest – a bridge too far for the capital’s best-supported club.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Opened in 2014, the Groupama Aréna was then the most significant football ground to open in Hungary for 60 years. With an all-seated capacity of 22,700, increased to nearly 24,000 when standing home supporters may use adaptable seating, the arena was created with fans in focus. There’s even a podium for someone to conduct the singing at the home end.

Other features include two floors of skyboxes, each with a historic figure from the club’s history on the door, a VIP area, a bar/restaurant, a club museum and a smartcard system for all types of payment. WiFi was an all-too-rare facility when first adopted here.

Away fans access through gate 4 to sector E, in a corner between the skyboxes and the (slightly) quieter of the two ends. The hard-core Fradi faithful occupy sectors B2-B3, the signs indicating B-Közép a historic hangover from the Üllői út days.

Groupama Aréna/Peterjon Cresswell

The Groupama was also used by Hungary’s national team while the Puskás Ferenc Stadion was being rebuilt. In November 2015, it was the scene of celebrations not seen in Hungary for decades, when the Magyars beat Norway in a play-off for Euro 2016, a first major finals since 1986.

For 2018-19, with Ferencváros bowing out to Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the Europa League, rebranded MOL Vidi used the Groupama Aréna for their European campaign, involving the visits of Chelsea, BATE and PAOK.

For European fixtures, the sponsor’s name of Groupama must be dropped and ‘Ferencváros Stadion’ used in its place. The arrangement with the French insurance company runs until 2024. The huge eagle placed in front of the stadium is the work of Csepel-based sculptor Gábor Miklós Szőke, also responsible for the vast falcon outside the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. 

The stone statue of club founder Ferenc Springer is the same one that once stood near the pitch at the old Üllői út ground. The bronze figure of Flórián Albert was unveiled around the time of the new stadium opening in August 2014.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

The Groupama Aréna is right beside Népliget, a station on the blue M3 metro line halfway between the city-centre transport hub of Deák Ferenc tér and the southern terminus of Köbánya-Kispest. At Népliget metro station, head for exit H for the stadium, signposted. 

Until 2023 at least, the M3 does not run between Deák Ferenc tér and Népliget. Currently on weekdays, the service runs from and to Kálvin tér, close to the city centre. At weekends, there’s a replacement bus (potlóbusz). The southern section of the blue line is operating normally.

The stadium is also served by tram 1, which runs every 10mins until nearly midnight and calls at Puskás Ferenc Stadion on red metro line M2. The tram stop is clearly signposted in the Népliget metro station underpass.

The stadium is diagonally opposite the city’s main bus terminal of Népliget, for international and domestic services. If you’re coming directly from the airport, take bus 200 as far as Köbánya-Kispest then change for the blue M3 line, or faster, direct bus 100E to Kálvin tér and take the metro from there, remembering that it’s replacement buses at weekends.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Ferencváros are the only club in Hungary who insist on presentation of a Fan Card before you can buy a ticket. 

The registration process is quick but has to be carried out in person at the stadium ticket office (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 9am-1pm or until kick-off, match-day Sun & Mon) on Üllöi út. It costs Ft1,000/€2.45 during the week, Ft 1,500/€3.65 on match days. You’ll see the outlet (pénztár) as you emerge from the metro station, straight ahead on Üllői út.

Ticket prices vary from the cheapest bought online for those already holding a Fan Card, to a week before the game, and then in the six-day run-up to kick-off, including match day itself.

If available, a place with the Fradi ultras in sectors B1-B3 is Ft2,350/€5.70 if bought online, Ft2,550/€6.20 in person in advance, Ft2,850/€6.90 closer to kick-off. At the opposite end, D3-D4, it’s Ft4,350/€10.60, Ft4,550/€11 and Ft4,850/€11.80. The best seats are over the halfway line in C4-C5, Ft6,550/€16, Ft6,750/€16.40 and Ft7,050/€17.15.

Availability drops significantly for major European games, when prices might rise. For all other fixtures, an average gate of around 10,000 easily guarantees you a seat on match days. For enquiries, contact jegypenztar@fradi.hu.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The club shop (Fradi Bolt; daily 10am-7pm) is at the opposite side of the stadium to the metro station, near the Flórián Albert statue. The current version of the green-and-white striped home top has a green collar with a slight V shape, and white sleeves with green cuffs. Away shirts are black with dark-green patches, the third choice a plain fawn colour. Note the three stars over the badge, one for every ten titles.

Also on offer are Fradi beach ping-pong sets, Fradi pasta (green-and-white, of course) and Fradi energy drinks. For a little pick-me-up during a lull in the game, pop a quick Fradi sportkocka, a cube of chocolate filled with peach brandy.

Museum & tours

Explore the club inside and out

Inside the main entrance, to the left of the reception desk, the Fradi Museum (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm, match days vary) is tasteful and imaginative. Features include a row of lockers, each providing an individual audio history as you open the door. A time-line runs right through the neatly planned space.

Note the name over the door: Béla Nagy was the genial FTC historian, who dedicated his life to the club he loved, producing dozens of books on the subject. Many of the artefacts you’ll see are from his own private collection.

Admission is Ft2,800/€6.80 including a brief stadium tour, allowing 50mins for the two combined. Hungarian-language tours run Tue-Fri 11am-4pm, Sat-Sun from 2pm (not match days). Contact fradimuzeum@fradi.hu.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

By Népliget stop for the tram 1 on Könyves Kálmán körút, on the same corner as the bus station, you’ll find the Szöglet (‘Corner’) Presszó. Touches of Fradi iconography decorate this otherwise basic bar, set in its own muralled building with tables outside.

Below ground in the metro station, two outlets sit side by side. The Zöld Villám Ételbár has changed little since the 1990s, cheap hot food served to a backdrop of FTC scarves and line-up photos.  Alongside, the Ági Presszó tried to move with the times, with tasteful decor but then realised it was in a metro underpass in deepest Ferencváros and reverted to character. On the wall are black-and-white photos of the Ági as a drinking den for FTC regulars.

At the stadium by the Albert statue and club shop, the Gólvonal Bisztró (‘Goal-line Bistro’; Mon-Sat 10am-3pm, match days 3hrs before kick-off, 2hrs after final whistle) is neat and modern, offering decent Hungarian lunches, along with Pilsner Urquell and Dreher on tap. TV sport beams out in almost every line of vision (including three screens over the bar counter), beside artistic renditions of Fradi’s achievements in various sporting fields.

A little further along on the same side, behind the Springer statue, the Kávézó (Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, match days) not only sells coffee, cakes and sandwiches as its name suggests, but Dreher beer, wine in three colours and all kinds of spirits. With a chic industrial design inside and tables outside, this is actually a nicer option that its bistro counterpart a few doors back, and less likely to be so busy.

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