• Kester Eddy

He's football crazy, he's football mad - so let there be ... another stadium for just EUR 54m!

Fidesz mayor makes sure Nyíregyháza does not miss out! After all, last Saturday's game attracted an astoninshing 0.13% of the city's population, hardy souls who braved the February warmth to see Nyíregyháza Spartacus overwhelm mighty Szentlőrinc 1-0.

The caption from 444.hu's report of laying the foundation stone for the new wonder stadium in Nyíregyháza. It reads: The stadium costs HUF 19 billion, although it was originally priced at HUF 10 billion, then HUF 14 billion. According to plans, it will be ready by the end of 2023.


Here is a lesson to improve your Scottish. It's the first verse and chorus of a song entitled "Football Crazy" sung by Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor, released in the UK in August, 1960. It became a kind of weird hit, of sorts, in the UK in the early 1960s.


(NB, in case you are Slavic, the word 'gob' has nothing to do with mushrooms - it's GB lang for 'mouth'.)


Oh, you'll all know my wee brother

And his name is Jock McGraw

And he’s lately joined a football club

For he’s mad aboot football

And he’s got two black eyes already

And teeth knocked frae 'is gob

Since oor Jock became a member o'

That terrible football club


[Chorus]

Oh, he’s football crazy!

He's football mad!

And the football, it has robbed him o'

The wee bit o' sense he had

And it would tak a dozen skillies

His claes to wash and scrub

Since our Jock became a member o'

That terrible football club


Not a few Hungarians today may relate to the essence of this song - and more. Somewhere, some Magyar journalist will have added up the total sum spent on new football stadia in this country in the last 12 years, that is since the second term of government under football mad Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took power in the late spring of 2010.


That sum will surely have a lot of "0"s in the total, even if evaluated in euros.


But for now, let us come to term with the specific news from last Friday, published on the (independent) website 444.hu.

https://444.hu/2022/02/11/letettek-a-19-milliardos-stadion-alapkovet-nyiregyhazan


where we can learn that Tünde Szabó, state secretary for sport, and Ferenc Kovács, Fidesz mayor of the city, laid the cornerstone of this super new soccer stadium in Nyíregyháza, Hungary's seventh largest city some three hours drive to the north-east of Budapest.

Now don't get me wrong, I've nothing against Nyíregyháza or its people - it's a nice enough place, where a previous mayor, a lady, was most gracious to myself and colleagues on a press visit in the early 2000s. (I also happen to like football, even if my favoured team issomewhat like Nyíregyháza and languishing in the nether regions of the English leagues.)

But let's put this in context. The Hungarian government has sanctioned the use of near EUR 54 million of public funds for a new stadium in a city with a population of 118,000 (according to Wikipedia).


Last Saturday, a grand total of 150 of said population turned up to watch the second-division league game against Szentlőrinc.


Yes, that's not a mistake. One hundred-and-fifty people, that what is says on the website of Nyíregyháza Spartacus in the match report here: http://nyiregyhazaspartacus.hu/hir/nyiregyhaza-spartacus--szentlorinc-10/4480

Photo: Nyíregyháza Spartacus players, presumably at the end of the Saturday game, celebrating their victory. The pic also shows about 8% of the entire crowd, "packed" in the background - courtesy of the Spartacus website.


Now Nyíregyháza, for sure, has it's moneyed 'elite' citizens, whose wealth is probably quite legally earned. But as the city is not too far from the border with Ukraine - and borders always mean some, shall we say 'extra curricular' activities tend to occur - it may not all have been generated entirely "above board".


But it's not a rich area. As one indicator, take the ticket price to watch Spartacus play a league game: the maximum any fan paid to watch last Saturday's match was HUF 1,000, a tad under EUR 3.00.


Buy the ticket in advance, and the price drops to half that. Students, pensioners and ladies also pay HUF 500. (Yes, talk about gender discrimination - ladies get in at half price to watch the Spartacus blokes strut their stuff!)


But there's more: if you are under 14 or over 70, you get in freebie! (It doesn't say, but one wonders if they pay girls under 14 and ladies over 70 HUF 500 to attend games?)


All told, if half the crowd paid HUF 500 forint on average last Saturday, the gate money for the game came to the grand total of HUF 18,750. Let's be generous and say EUR 55 - possibly enough to cover half-a-day's wages for a reserve centre-half.


Let's put this into yet more context: the city and its surrounds have a large Roma minority, and there is an issue with alleged segregation in schools - schools where, regardless of the pupils' ethnicity, a starting teacher earns about HUF 312,00o - a bit under EUR 900 gross - a month. (That information from a recent RTL Klub programme on the threatened teachers' strike.)


There is a known shortage of teachers all over the country. Even in Budapest, one high school student told me recently that chemistry was cut as a single subject in her school, and merged with physics due to lack of teachers. And let's not get onto the healhcare, where stories on the shortage of doctors and nurses in the east of the country, ie including Nyíregyháza and environs, are the stuff of legend from even before 2010.


Now I am no education or healthcare economist, but one wonders, if EUR 27 million (ie half the cost of the new stadium) were allocated to each of two special and carefully planned programmes to train and support teachers and healthcare staff in the county of the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg - of which Nyíregyháza is the county town - just what difference that might make to these public services over, say the next 10 years?


But no, foci - and its super stadium - takes priority. True, I have forgotten to mention that the new stadium will be built to UEFA-2 requirements, which presumably means at least some European-level games can be played there if and when Spartacus can climb out of the second division and then play themselves into the higher echelons of the Hungary's top flight.


In addition, I've omitted to note the venue will have capacity to host 8, 150 spectators - that is, last Saturday's crowd, and then 54 more like it - if and when the local team reaches such dizzy heights.


Talk about optimistic investment for the future.

It all rather reminds me of the third and fourth lines of the song that starts this post:


And the football, it has robbed him o'

The wee bit o' sense he had


Only, in this case, I'm not thinking about fictitious footballer Jock McGraw, but someone more corporeal in today's world.


By the way, for the original vinly performance, try:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BN3CrpAKakQ


But if you have trouble understanding Scottish, a more standardised, anglicised version of the ditty may be more suitable for the non-native speaker ear - although some words are changed altogether - here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NSUuf1h


ADDENDUM: You live and learn every day, don't you? According to Wikipedia, this song was originally written in 1880! Not only that, but it is the first song that refers to Association Football.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_Crazy


"Football Crazy" is a song written by James Curran, originally titled as "The Dooley Fitba' Club", in the 1880s. The song is the earliest-known song that references association football, and it later became a minor hit in the 1960s for Scottish folk music duo Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor.


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