Take 30 blokes, put them in a foreign country where the beer is cheap and the women are plentiful and what do you get? Well a bloody good weekend of football, laughs and goodwill across Europe. And is down to one man. Danny Last, the man behind European Football Weekend website. After years of going here and there across Europe, meeting locals and spreading the word that us English are actually quite like the Belgiums/Germans/Swedes/Danes and Poles when it comes to wanting to watch some football in a cracking atmospheric environment with a few beers. Such nuggets as “Waking up in Rostock wearing nothing but a Hansa scarf around my neck meant it must have been a good night” can be seen scattered across his site.
More and more people became interested in his trips, and when the TBIR team and Danny teamed up we formed an unbeatable partnership that could span Europe and bring people together in a way that even the most ardent Eurosceptic would be proud of. Last year Danny put together an itinerary for the first ever Ocktoberfest – a trip to take in four games in three days in Holland and Germany. You can read all about the trip here, or watch the short video highlights below.
The weekend of bonding created some long lasting friendships. After all when would you see Royal Antwerp fans ending up at Forest Green Rovers, TSV 1860 Munich fans braving the monsoon at Eastleigh versus Lewes or even a Hansa Rostock fan want to go to watch West Ham (come on – stop stretching the truth now).
As soon as the trip came to an end there were calls for an encore. Wanting to share some of the burden of the organisation Danny created his own EU subcommittee and the planning began in earnest. First up was venue? Budapest was a firm favourite of ours thanks toour trip there in March 2008 and with Vienna and Bratislava in striking distance it seemed ideal. Easyjet obliged with cheap flights as soon as the route was announced and a hotel was found next to the national stadium no less for less than £30 per night and we were in business. Soon nearly 30 people had stuck their hands in the air, and then more importantly stuck their hands in their own pockets to book their itineraries (it has to be noted that Danny nor anyone else on this trip is a travel agent – you pay your own way all the way). So all we needed was some kind fixtures. With four top tier teams in Budapest at least one would be at home right? Wrong all four were drawn to play away….and the same with the nearest two others as well. OK – Bratislava – nope Inter and Slovan were away too.
To many that would be a disaster but our COBRA committee met and with some careful planning and some calls to far away coach companies a full weekend of football in two countries started to take shape. And then Debrecen added to our pleasure by making it into the Europa League Group Stages, meaning their home games had to be played at the Ferenc Puskas stadium in Budapest – the one slap bang next to our hotel. So five games in four days in two countries – its enough to give anyone serious about European Football Weekends a heart attack.
There was some familiar faces on the trip – Game a day John, Antwerp Hans, Big Deaksy, Stoffers, Radish and the Forest Green boys as well as some new chaps hoping that the pre-match build up would be worth it. And of course it didn’t disappoint. Apart from some dire football at times the trip was a huge success. As Danny Last points out in his first piece, what goes on on Ocktoberfest tours never stays on Ocktoberfest tours.
I could go on for thousands of words on the trip, but I know you only want the juicy bits so here is my take on events of the weekend day by day.
Day one – Thursday 21st October (EFW version here)
Work commitments meant that whilst the majority of the group were watching Debrecen v PSV Eindhoven, I was at the screwed up hell hole on earth that is known as Luton Airport. West Ham would be proud of the ways that airport try and extract money from you. Want to drop off a passenger (as Football Jo was dropping me off) – that will be a £1. Need one of the plastic bags for your liquids – that will be a £1. Want to avoid the queues at security – that will be £3 to stand in a different line. Anyway, two hours later of experiencing Wizzair passengers and the foreign concept of “staying seated until the plane actually stops” and I was in Hungary. Fifteen minutes later and I was in the O2 Arena – a pub close to the hotel where the rest of the party were, er partying. And had been for hours. Songs were in full flow and the barman could not believe his luck as he kept stocking up his fridge with £1 a half litre bottles of Bodsodi.
It all started getting a bit right wing when two locals started making right arm salutes and signing songs about Mussolini, trying to encourage us to join in and at that point it was time to call it a night, although Deaksy decided to go and find Tescos as he was a bit peckish, only to return hours later empty handed having failed to spot the huge 24 hour store about 50 yards in the other direct he headed in.
Day two – Friday 22nd October 2010 (EFW version here)
All of the talk at breakfast was not of the football, nor the game that evening in the unpronounceable town in the west of the country. It was all about Kim Wilde. Next door to the hotel, in the Pap Lazlo arena was an 80’s concert starting at 8pm, and of course a 4 star hotel next door would make a perfect spot for the stars – Kim, Boy George, Nick Kershaw, Paul Young and Rick Astley. Now here are two facts about young Rick that will amaze you…firstly he has a fear of flying and as such appearances like these were very rare indeed. Secondly he has sold over 40million records. 40MILLION. The task for the day was simple. Find Rick and get him on the bus for our tour.
First up was a short ground tour of Budapest. A short walk from the hotel were the grounds of MTK and Ferencvaros, two of Hungary’s best known teams. Now most people have heard of Flash Mobs, groups of people who turn up out of the blue for a specific reason at a set time and venue. Well, we have invented Flash Fans. A group of football fans who turn up at empty stadiums, find the magic door (the one left open with direct access to the pitch) and generally create legal mirth once we are in there. At MTK if happened to be the first door we tried.
Five minutes later and we were re-creating the final scenes from Escape to Victory (filmed in this very stadium and one where they had to spend money to make it look better today than it was in 1945!) before heading off down the road to the home of Kevin McCabe owned Ferencvaros. Not so much luck this time – Danny and Perchie made it onto the pitch but the rest were stopped by a security guard who instead forced us into the museum.
Football hooliganism is a problem in Hungary, especially with Ferencvaros. One cause may be the fact that to buy a beer is £1 but to buy a track suit in the club shop is £100. Is it any wonder the fans turn up pissed and not in club colours. Get you priorities right!
Back to the hotel and it was time for the first of our coach trips, heading westwards across the country to Zalerg, erm Zalag..no…Zalerga. well westwards to the place where ZTE play. But first a stop off in Siofok on Lake Balaton – the partay capital of Hungary, which of course being a Friday was completely closed. When the highpoint of a stop is a visit to SPAR you know things have got bad, but at least we came away with a shopping trolley full of beer.
Westwards Ho! and we arrived in the ZTE place in time to stock up on provisions. Some of the posher members of the party paid an extra £1.20 to sit in the VIP area, soon forgetting the rest of us with our Disco scarves on (made with a special shiny material). As for the game itself, well I cannot actually remember much about it. A combination of beer (at a rip off €1.30), the cold and some dire football saw to guaranteed amnesia but I do remember the winning goal hit the back of the net and then the referee simply not bothering to want to walk back to the centre circle as he was so close to the tunnel behind that goal. Game over, a ZTE win and within minutes the Flash Fans were in the goalmouth.
A couple of hours later and we arrived at the hotel to find our message for Mr Astley still undelivered, and Kim Wilde unavailable to come to the O2 Arena for some customer experience Hungarian style and of course a few Bodsodi’s.
Day three – Saturday 23rd October 2010 (EFW version here andhere)
Despite our overnight dreams there was no Love of the common people at breakfast as the 80’s stars had apparently moved onto another town, despite the hotel putting their best girl on the welcome desk, asking her to hitch her micro skirt up a few more inches. Our coach was waiting to take us north across the border into Slovakia, and learning the lessons from yesterday they had one with a toilet and a fully stocked fridge. Unfortunately the toilet didn’t work, but hey it’s the thought that counts.
Danny and I had done our homework and worked out that the 200km trip would take about 3 hours. Of course we didn’t factor in coach speed and the fact that they cannot go along single track dirt roads as we would in our Smart Cars, so the SatNav showed an ETA of 2.15pm from the start….kick off in Trencin was 2pm…Could we get them to delay the kick off? It was a consideration.
So what do 30 blokes on a coach do for 4 hours? Play Bingo of course. Yes, in the height of true blokiness we got our heads down and won some wonderful prizes including tea towels, an apron and a pill cutter – Rock and Roll eh. A further delay at the border whilst T-Bone our driver had to pick the border guard off the floor and explain a few more times why he was driving 30 blokes across the border for a football match meant we pulled up outside the Štadión na Sihoti with 30 minutes gone. Danny had already sorted out our special “Englishmen away for a weekend party pack” which was entry to the ground, a beer and a scarf. What more do you need? Well how about a Slovakian sausage – don’t mind if I do….Oh how I wish to rewind that moment in time.
The ground, complete with its lollipop floodlights and the castle that once was home to Van Helsing himself (well, according to Perchy anyway) was perfect set but had seen better days. In the second half we took our spot on the crumbling terrace with the Trencin hardcore fans and soon were discussing the merits of Avram Grant’s reign at West Ham – well they thought it was hilarious that anyone could be a West Ham fan in the current climate!
On the pitch the home side triumphed in a game against Petrzalka, the team formerly known as ArtMedia in a top of the table clash that sent some of the nutty home fans, well, nutty.
Keen not to avoid another missed kick off we piled back on the coach and headed back down the motorway to Trnava for what promised to be the game of the weekend. Spartak Trnava’s supporters are known to be some of the most passionate fans in Eastern Europe. Sometimes that boils over a bit, like last week when they mistakenly ripped up dozens of seats at Senica in celebration of their away win. So where would the best place to watch such a game – well what about slap bang in the middle of their home end?
At last we had a decent game as well (click here for a full report) with Spartak attacking our end and trying any method possible to beat the Zlatan Moravce keeper, including throwing masses of toilet rolls at him and plastic bottles full of, erm yellow liquid. He of course complained to the referee and of course was told not to be a wimp and carry on. Half time brought some simple entertainment – kids football, but with a twist. Take two tiny goals, put 20 kids of varying age on a pitch with no rules, no boundaries and no referee and you have anarchy. Tackles were flying in irrespective of whether anyone had the ball and there was understandably little in the way of goalmouth action, but it was cracking entertainment.
The second half saw more fan action than football action but if truth be told that is what we had come to see. A nil nil draw wasn’t a bad result for us, but for the home side it was two more dropped points.
So what stood between us and a few pints in Budapest? Only a five hour coach trip. Our genial coach hosts tried to keep our spirits up by promising us a visit on the way home to the Stadium Eto, home of Györ which was apparently lit up at night like the big bright white elephant it had become. And of course when we got there it was all in the dark. What could make my night any worse? Well how about the return visit of the Slovakian sausage as well as the rest of my stomach contents? Nice.
Day four – Sunday 24th October 2010 (EFW version here)
So did I feel any better after 8 full hours of sleep? Er not at all. But that wasn’t going to stop me enjoying the last day of Ocktoberfest 2010. First up was a look into the Olympic Stadium across the road and its fabulous giraffe style floodlights before we headed south via metro and tram to the home of Budapest Honved. For once the magic door didn’t open – well one did and was then firmly closed by a burly security guard who wouldn’t take Euros for an answer.
So we headed north for the final bit of action of the weekend. Ujpest B were last season’s Hungarian second division champions, but as the first team are happily in entrenched in the Soproni Liga they cannot be promoted. So they consequently had their best players plucked from their ranks by the first team and it was back to square one for the B team.
Now travel arrangements are my speciality but occasionally I screw up. I had planned the journey from north to south with 15 minutes to spare but coming out of the metro I ushered everyone on the right bus but going the wrong way, eventually realising the error when the floodlights we saw were not from the Szuszac Ferenc Stadion but from Vasas’s ground. Hardly handy when there was no game going on.
So twenty minutes later we paid our £1.60 each to get into the right ground and see Spartacus of Nyive rip apart the home team in a two-nil win. Whilst there was only a three figure crowd in the stadium, what was interesting to see was the number of empty seats at one end, which could be explained after a recent visit of Ferencvaros and a referee who they didn’t agree with in a 6-0 defeat.
The one amusing incident in the game came in the 80th minute when the away team keeper was sent off for handling the ball outside the area. After a long wait on came a cross between Borat and David Seaman in the tightest pair of tracksuit bottoms known to man and clown shoes for his big chance. He turned out to be quite good unfortunately!
So what to do with our final few hours? I know lets go to a bar and watch some more football! I took the party to my favourite restaurant in the city called Boxutca, a sports restaurant, where a secret handshake saw the real magic door open and a huge room open before our eyes, with one huge screen and two little (40 inch LCD’s) on either side so that we could see all of Jamie Redknapp’s ego live from the City of Manchester Stadium on Sky Sports.
A fine meal of Goulash soup to start and then a variety of main courses served as if they were fit for the Masterchef judges themselves would have fooled many outsiders that we were imposters but we know the fine things in life and it was a fitting way to end another successful EFW Ockoberfest.
And the topic of discussion on the way home? Why of course, next year’s venue. Czech Republic anyone?
Thursday – 15:00 meet in the Hotel Danibus Arena. Then onto Jammings pub where we’ve a table booked from 17:00. Debrecen v PSV is at 19:00. For those not going to the game, we can ALL meet up in the Old Mans pub, afterwards. http://www.oldmansmusicpub.com/?lang=en Just a couple of metro stops and a short walk from the hotel.
Friday – Coach now leaves Danubius Hotel Arena at 12:45. This gives you a bit of time in Budapest in the morning. We’ll stop at Lake Balaton on the way for food and beers and arrive in time for a few pre-match beers in Zalaegerszeg. The match kicks off at 19:00.
Saturday – Coach now leaves Danubius Hotel Arena at 09:45. We’re going to two games in Slovakia. AS Trencin and Spartak Trnava. Because it’s a further distance, the coach company now need to use two drivers and are charging us a bit more. The total cost for the coach is now €60 each. Match tickets are less than €5 each.
Sunday – For those that want there is a game at Ujpest Stadium at 14:00 in Budapest.
Please hand me the €60 for the coach on FRIDAY morning.
I hope all that makes sense. Any problems then email me or ask for my mobile number.
We have discovered two games being played in the Slovakian 2nd and 3rd tiers on Saturday at 2pm. Both would allow us still to get to Trnava in time for the main event and would allow us to get suitably “limbered” up.
Option 1 – AS Trencin v FC Petrzalka – Trencin
Trencin is a nice little city in the west of Slovakia. It is north of Trnava so it would mean an earlier start from the hotel on the coach but it has a couple of things going for it. Firstly the game is 1st v 2nd in the 1st Division. AS Trencin have won 9 out of 11 so far, and the visitors are better known in their previous guise of ArtMedia, who famously stuffed Celtic 5-0 in a Champions League qualifier a few years ago.
Secondly the ground has some of the best floodlights we have seen. And as Danny has a fetish for a big erection with some lights on top it has some real appeal. They have an English language website. Their ground, the Mestsky, holds nearly 16,000. Tickets for the game cost a whopping €2.50 although if you are feeling generous you could buy a season ticket for €35.
Option 2 – FKM Novo Zamsky v Moravany – Novo Zamsky
Novo Zamsky is about half way between the Slovakian/Hungarian border at Trnava so is enroute. This game is a 2nd division West game and their ground is called the Sihoti….the last few games have had around 300 people there…
The big countdown clock has now started ticking and we are at T-13 days before Oktoberfest 2010 kicks off. Details are being announced on a daily basis so keep checking back here.
Thursday 21st October – Debrecen v PSV Eindhoven
For those in town on Thursday night the biggest game of the Hungarian season so far sees Dutch giants PSV come to the Ferenc Puskas Stadion literally a stones throw from the Danubius/Hotel Arena base camp. Kick off is at 7pm and tickets – get this – start from 1,500 FL’s which is about £4.50! Debrecen were stuffed 5-0 at home on matchday 1 to Metalist Kharkiv (I always want to add an “n” to their name to make it Mentalist) in front of 5,000 in Budapest, and then lost narrowly 1-0 in Genoa to Sampdoria, whilst PSV have 4 points so far.
Friday 22nd October – Zalaegerszeg v Vasas
We have a coach picking us up at the hotel at midday for the Jolly Boys outing down past Lake Balaton (and potentially a culture stop) before we get to the town that no one can pronounce for the league game kicking off at 5.30pm. Ticket prices range from 1,300 FT (£4) to 2,500 FT (£8) for a seat, luxury buffet and a lapdance (joke…I think but who knows with Google translate!)..Or for £25 you can buy a season ticket! This is one of the most modern stadiums in Hungary and average attendances this season are around 4,300 (capacity is 14,000).
Saturday 23rd October – Spartak Trnava v Moravce
A trip over the border to watch Slovakia’s best supported team in the 18,000 Malatinsky Stadium at 5.30pm where just €4 will get us a place on the terraces or for an extra €1 we can have our own seat to throw (joke). Average attendance this season is less than 6,000! The plan is to have our driver pick us up about 10am from the hotel for the trip north.
Sunday 24th October – Ujpest II v Nyíregyháza
In the northern fringes of Budapest is the modern Stadion Szusza Ferenc, home of the Ujpest club where we be seeing their reserve team who actually won the 2nd division last season but are not allowed to be promoted as long as the first team are in the top division. Ticket prices look to be about 1,000 FL (£5).
A reminder from Mr Last:-
“Hi lads, not long now. Just to remind you that although Hungary has its own currency, I still need the €50 from each of you for the coach in EUROS. If anyone doesn’t pay in € EUROS € then we’ll be screwed because we won’t have enough money to pay the driver and the coach company.
Now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s… go and have ourselves a European Football Weekend full of weird and wonderful places, obscure teams, hulking great Eastern European floodlights and cheap beers!!!”
So after a nervous wait on a decision as to whether Debrecen would be allowed to stay in the Europa League we can now confirm that on Thursday 21 October they will be playing PSV Eindhoven…in Budapest. In all likelihood this will be played at the National Stadium (the Stadion Puskas Ferenc) which is slap bang next to the Hotel Stadion where a number of people are booked in.
On the Friday we are looking at a coach trip with a stop at Lake Balaton down to Zalaegerszegi for their game with Vasas, which is an early evening kick off and gives us the chance to get back to Budapest for a few drinks afterwards.
Saturday is still undecided but the current thinking is to head over the border into Slovakia for a game at Trnava, where Spartak are playing Moravce in the Superliga. This is the second largest ground in Slovakia and has some of the highest average attendances. Again, we would be back in Budapest in the evening in time for some (more) beers.
Sunday looks like being the game at Ujpest as we have highlighted before….more to follow.
Right, we now have a few more plans forming, thanks to Danny’s ability to network with fans across Europe using the medium of football, darts and beer. This is our latest thinking. Bear in mind all of this is optional. This is not a package holiday – you pay your own way and if you want to come along then great. If you would rather go gun shooting in Budapest we can put you in touch with people to do this as well.
Thursday - For those of you arriving early enough on the Thursday in Budapest there is very real chance we’ll hire a mini-bus to go to a Europa League game that night. Austria Vienna, Rapid Vienna (right) and Slovan Bratislava could be our options and are within a couple of hours away and all three could well be involved in the Group Stages. For the rest – who are arriving later – a few beers in Budapest for the night should see you right.
Friday – There is a Premier League (equivalent) in Hungary every Friday night. We’ll all go to this one wherever it is – the furthest destination is but a few hours away . If we have to hire the infamous EFW coach then so be it. Hans from Royal Antwerp will be our entertainments manager and as always and Deaks and I will run the bar. At a small profit. Just kidding – a very large Enron style profit!
Saturday – This will depend on how the fixtures pan out. They’re decided 2-3 weeks beforehand. Debrecon v Ferecvaros is the biggest game in Hungary that weekend and that will be “an experience”. There are also a couple of second division games within spitting distance but the atmosphere will be like an old people’s home in the dead of winter. Slovan Bratislava are also at home just a couple of hours away in what is the biggest game of the Slovakian season. It’s a win-win situation on that day. If we can do two games on this day that we all fancy then we’ll put it to a vote. Of course you are free to go wherever you want on any day anyway. We’ve also been invited to travel with the Ujpest fans for their away game in Papa. That will obviously be a mad day out. So lots of options for that day…
Aside from all that, various ground visits in Budapest, lots of beers and giggles and some local cuisine will be the order of the day(s).
Right – the best floodlights in Hungary are sure to tempt Danny…