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The Penya Blaugrana de Budapest, with 900 members, is one of Barça’s biggest international supporters clubs. Although it only turned official three years ago, its roots go all the way back to 2003 when a group of fans set up a website for Barça fans in Hungary. But 2020 is going to be a very special year. After four and a half decades, Barça are finally returning to the Hungarian capital.
The perfect draw
“When Ferencváros qualified for the group stage, we were already nervous” says its president, Ivan Zaborszky. "We knew that if we were lucky we could get Barça v Fradi. The draw was like a semi-final and the feeling afterwards was sensational.”
This stroke of fortune comes just a year after Budapest was the host city for Barça’s first ever appearance in the Women’s Champions League Final. Zaborszky remembers the experience fondly: “We didn’t get the right result, but that was an awesome weekend for us. We had only been an official club for at best a year, but we organised a reception dinner for the Barça officials, a meeting of Barça supporters and distributed almost 200 tickets. We are very proud of how it went.”
Unfortunately the circumstances are very different in this peculiar 2020. Barça might be coming to Budapest, but the local penyistes may not be able to attend the game. “When Barça come to Hungary, we are certainly going to organise something big for the occasion” vows Zaborszky. “But we don’t yet know how. The authorities are expecting a spike in Covid-19 in Hungary around November-December, so it’s hard to plan anything responsibly.”
It’s doubly frustrating for members like Sándor Balázsovics, who is not only fanatical about Barcelona but is also a fervent Ferencváros supporter. He has purchased countless tickets to follow Barça all around Europe, although on this occasion he does admit that he’ll be rooting more for Ferencváros.
"For me, the Champions League group stage draw was full of emotions” he says. “I was so excited, like my life depended on it and later when I realised that two of my favourite clubs would be in one group, words cannot describe the euphoria I felt."
"Since then, I have been working hard to get to both matches somehow despite the current circumstances. I have been to El Clasico several times and followed the Hungarian national team at Euro 2016, but these two matches are number one on my bucket list. If I can make it to the stadiums, I will cry my eyes out like a little kid at the starting whistles."
There is nobody better than Ivan Zaborszky to ask for a little more information about a team Barça are playing for the first time ever in a competitive fixture. “Like FC Barcelona, they also have a shorted version of their name” he explains. “Everyone here calls them Fradi. It’s strange for us to hear people say ‘Barcelona v Ferencváros’. For us it’s 'Barça v Fradi'.
“Ferencváros is historically the most important club in the country, on all levels. They have the biggest budget, the most fans, they’re the only one to have won a continental trophy (1965 Fairs Cup), and the only one to have a Ballon d’Or winner (Flórián Albert in 1967).
There have been ups and downs as with any club and it’s 25 years since they last played in the Champions League. But in recent years the club has been more professionally organised than ever.
And Barcelona and Ferencváros share some history, and especially three men: Kocsis, Czibor and Kubala. They were historic players for Fradi, and for Barça too. And that’s the only problem with Ferencváros these days compared to its squads in the old days, or to Barça nowadays, they hardly have any players that came out of its own youth system. But that’s not only a problem with this club, it’s a problem throughout Hungarian football.”
United by Barça
Although the bulk of its membership is in Budapest, the fact that they are the only penya in Hungary means that their influence stretches further afield. As Zaborszky explains: “We have penyistes living in towns all around the country, and even Hungarian citizens living in other countries, like Germany, Austria, England and Norway, who have continued to be members of our penya.”
This, together with the fact that the club is so big, means that one of the biggest tasks faced by the PB Budapest is the integration of all its members. The president contrasts them with Catalan clubs: “I imagine that everyone knows each other there, because they all live close to the penya clubhouse. But here we have people from lots of different places, so we use all of our meetings and activities for people to get to know each other. Little by little, we are creating our culer family”.
It is a wonderful example of how the club and its penyes bring people together. And FC Barcelona v Ferencváros… sorry, Barça v Fradi… is sure to make the bond more intense than ever. Even if they cannot be there in the stadium, we very much hope the experience will be one the Penya Blaugrana de Budapest will be remembering with fondness for a very long time indeed.
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