Fourteen people gathered in the swirl of Terminal 2 at Liszt Ferenc International Airport. Their colourful green and white costumes and scarves made them visible from far away, which they topped off with a Fradi-branded cap. Ten gentlemen and one lady set off for Breda via Eindhoven, led by coach Roland Horváth and two assistants, to represent Ferencváros in the European Walking Football League against some of Europe's most prestigious clubs.
Arriving at the hotel in Breda in the late afternoon, the team was met in the hotel lobby by the uniformed representatives of Schalke 04, Atheltic Bilbao and Newcastle United. As the only team from the post-socialist region, perhaps some of them had a flashback to the old feeling of the glamorous Western look that was once etched in the wistful minds of those who had been chained to the East during their trips to the West. This time, however, there was no room for inferiority, as there are few things a true-blooded Fradist would be more proud of than the Ferencváros supporters' outfit, especially if it has a history - like a scarf with the faces and signatures of the members of the '95 UEFA Champions League team. So they were an exhilarating sight, which led to many enthusiastic "hajrá, Fradi" (let's go Fradi) and a lot of interest from the Ferencváros fans passing by at Budapest airport, the airplane crew and even a group of tourists from Eindhoven.
After occupying the rooms, the team gathered in one of them, where, after a short speech by the coach and a team pledge, the new team captain, Gábor Dunavölgyi, was elected, and then the group headed to the canteen at the next day’s tournament venue, where the 16 teams, nearly 180 members, had dinner together.
They were a spectacularly good band, already in a sparkling good mood during the bus ride, which was infectious for the teams that were with them. Only the Indian-Dutch dinner, served as a culinary exotic, and the careful muster of the opponents, somewhat dampened it.
FTC were grouped with Benfica of Portugal, who have nearly 1,000 footballers, PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands, who have a long history of walking football, and Foundation 92, who represent Salford City FC of Greater Manchester. Anyone who is intrigued by the connection between Manchester and the number 92 is on the right track, because the number refers not to the foundation but to a legendary generation: the 'Fergie Boys', former Manchester United stars David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville, who became owners of the now English third division club Salford after their playing careers.
After dinner and a short presentation, the organisers asked the teams to mingle. While our team was joined by representatives of Rangers, the better English-speaking players immediately headed for the table of Benfica, who were considered the toughest, where it became clear that the young, 50s-only squad hardly ever find a challenging opponent as a young team at home. This quickly lifted the burden of the first game off the shoulders of our team, which has a very wide age range between 54 and 74. It was the same with the second opponent, as it turned out that the team from Manchester had missed their flight with the exception of one player and three members of the staff, and were trying to recruit from the other teams.
Soon after dinner the buses headed back to the hotel so that everyone could be well refreshed for the big event, but before that, to ensure the home atmosphere and the right slope of the pitch, the anthem of Fradi was sung.
Just a little more than 12 hours later, the team gathered in the canteen, this time quietly, concentrated, listening to the tactical instructions of the master about line-up, defensive positions, corners and attack, which, in the light of the three-metre wide goal and the information gathered the night before, was to shoot when there was a gap, after crossing the half line.
The opening match of our Group C was between Benfica and Foundation 92. The latter was helped out by the EFDN's young organising staff and a Rangers player, where the "English", firing from all over the pitch, put a lot of pressure on Benfica in the first half, quickly proving the effectiveness of the "step up and shoot" coaching directive. In the second half of the game, Benfica showed that they were a good team and equalised the two-goal deficit.
In the meantime, it turned out that not only the English team, but also Eintracht Frankfurt had problems with their numbers, and some of our players were approached, but of course, the tempting invitation of the recent Europa League winners could not match Ferencváros, they tried in vain.
Our team started the tournament against PSV Eindhoven. Fradi dominated most of the 10-minute match, winning 2-0 after Csaba Fritz's smart interception of a careless goal kick and István Batuska's beautiful shot from the side.
In the second match, against the twenty-year-olds of EFDN, representing Foundation 92, who were playing out of turn in the tournament, the game was difficult, and only the enthusiastic employee of Groupama Arena, György Chabada, could score a goal in response to their four goals.
Against Benfica, Fradi started the game with an extraordinary will to fight, and although they went behind relatively early, they fought for the equaliser with Fradi heart. Even though there is no goalkeeper in walking football, the 3x1 metre area in front of the goal is a restricted area, János Becz was still reminded of Dibusz Dénes more than once, as he made countless blocks and saves throughout the tournament, while at the same time he was the fundamental pillar of our team, who was sure to distribute the passes from the back to build the attack. It is no coincidence that it was just after his block that the teachable quick-passing ball was launched, at the end of which our player with a good sense of the ball, Sándor Fischer, who was lurking in striker position, was passed to and only had to adjust the ball from first touch with the stride of his long legs. Despite the Portuguese's efforts, the score remained 1-1, a great result considering that Benfica had marched up to 3rd place.
Our team continued in Group 2 against Real Betis, Valerenga and local side NAC Breda, where the group runners-up will battle it out for 5th-8th place. Unfortunately, the lunch break was a bit long, from which they couldn't come back on the pitch with enough concentration, nothing seemed to come together against Valerenga, who were playing overly aggressive and nasty, they were already 0-3 up when we were awarded a last minute "overtime" penalty for fouling in a clear scoring chance. Csaba Fritz was on the half line in front of the empty goal, and he did not miss the ball passed from the corner, although the Norwegians were still trying hard to disturb him to prevent the score which altered the final score to 1-3.
Unfortunately, against Real Betis, there was a complete lack of control in all aspects of the game, which the Spanish playmaker midfielder was painfully comfortable in, hurting the heads of the Ferencváros players who were just chasing the ball, not only with passes but also with dribbles. The result was a 5-0 defeat. Although the selection of the Ferencváros squad was community-based, and not based on game skills, thus there was a big difference between the two teams' ability, coach Roland Horváth did not spare head washing after the match.
The speech was productive, in the last game against NAC Breda the team showed a focused, disciplined game and forced the home team to struggle in bringing the ball to the other half. It is true that signs of fatigue were already showing strongly, which was reflected in a goal conceded and poor finishing. However, the picture of the game was clear and goals from György Chabada and Gábor Dunavölgyi helped FTC to a 2-1 win to overtake 1-point Breda and finish third in their group.
However, they had to fight for 7th place one more time with Breda in a play-off match. Fortunately, our team continued where they left off, first Csaba Fritz scored, then Attila Fucskár, in the spirit of the "from the shot becomes the goal" idea, from an almost impossible angle, from the corner of the pitch, increased the Ferencváros advantage to two goals. Although the difference could have been greater, the score remained 2-0 and Ferencváros finished the 16-team European tournament in 7th place, an absolutely praiseworthy performance from the squad.
The tournament was followed by the third half, in which no official results were announced, but there is no doubt that the Fradists won, more than once making a large part of the participants sing with the help of the players from Bilbao and Lisbon, adding a unique cheer and vibe to the evening. What's more, they even won the pub quiz provided by the organisers!
The mood on the bus on the way to the hotel was not diminished, a great friendship was established with the silver medal winning Basques, the two companies sang together for the whole half hour journey, cheering each other on, and the good mood was only enhanced by the football championship title of our girls in Győr, which was also sung.
In the morning of the last day, the team explored Breda's charming, river-lined old town on a three-hour walk through a dense mix of sunshine and hail. Including the goose-filled city park and the impressive historic Lutheran sanctuary, known simply as the Grote Kerk, or Great Church, which was originally built by Catholics six centuries ago and towers high above the city. Finally, the team, who had represented the FTC in a worthy manner, returned home, full of souvenirs and experiences. Perhaps that is why the fate decided at Eindhoven airport that a group of Fradi fans coming from the opposite direction should greeted and said farewell to the walking footballers with loud "Hajrá, Fradi!" chants.
1. Schalke 04
2. Athletic Bilbao
5. Real Betis
7. Ferencvárosi Torna Club
8. NAC Breda
9. ADO Den Haag
10. Bayer Leverkusen
12. PSV Eindhoven
13. Greenock Morton
14. Newcastle United
15. Eintracht Frankfurt
16. Foundation 92
As well as enjoying the game, last week's walking football sessions were also about football awareness.
Two former players were welcomed back by the walking football team.
It has been a week with individual female successes for our walking footballers.
As well as playing sport, they were also active this week in terms of cheering.
The Walking Football Programme continues with constantly developing team cohesion.
A team from Debrecen joined FTC's domestic walking football tournament on Saturday.
The walking footballers completed two more sessions, preparing for the first Hungarian inter-club competition.
The walking football team fought for Albert, Fenyvesi and Zoltán Varga.