In terms of trophies won, there are bigger rivalries in Hungarian football than the one that pits Budapest foes Ferencvaros and Honved against each other. While the former have more league titles than any other club in Hungary, the latter lie fourth on the all-time honours list behind fellow Budapest sides MTK and Ujpest.
Yet, as any football fan knows, there are more ingredients to a passionate derby than the silverware the two opposing sides can bring to the table. History is just one of them, and neither Ferencvaros nor Honved are lacking in that.
The two clubs are linked together by three of the most famous names in Hungarian football, with Honved playing their home games at the Jozsef Bozsik Stadium, right on Ferenc Puskas Street, and Ferencvaros running out at the Florian Albert Stadium, situated a mere five kilometres further west.
Relatively close neighbours, the two first became rivals during the golden era of Hungarian football, in the 1950s, and the enmity between them has endured to this day.
Founded in 1901, the Hungarian league was dominated for the first few decades of its existence by Ferencvaros, MTK and Ujpest, who accounted for 41 of the 47 league titles won up to 1949, the second world war having caused the suspension of the league for two seasons.
1949 was a pivotal year in the history of Hungary. It was at that time that the country came under Communist rule, with the state taking control of its football clubs. Among them were Kispest, which became the team of the Hungarian army or Honvedseg, hence its renaming as Honved.
Honved wasted little time in making their presence felt. While retaining Kispest players of the calibre Ferenc Puskas and Jozsef Bozsik, they acquired the services of the fabled Ferencvaros duo Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor, not to mention Hungary’s national team coach Gusztav Sebes.
In almost the blink of an eye, a club that had never won a league title became thoroughbred champions, providing virtually the entire line-up of a Hungary side that went on to enjoy a level of global adulation that has rarely been matched since. In doing so they presented an altogether new threat to the supremacy of Ferencvaros, whose main rivals to that point had been Ujpest.
Facts and figures
Honved’s first period of domination in the fixture lasted six years and spelled hard times for Ferencvaros, who had rarely had any trouble in shrugging off Kispest, a side they had beaten in all four of their league meetings between 1947 and 1949.
Honved were an entirely different proposition, however, a point they proved by going unbeaten in the next 15 meetings between the sides, winning 11 of them and drawing the other four. During that run Sebes’ charges scored 53 goals and conceded a mere 17, their biggest win over the Fradi, as Ferencvaros are known, being a 9-1 demolition in 1952.
Honved won five titles between 1950 and 1955, firmly putting Ferencvaros in the shade. League champions in 1949, the Green Eagles would have to wait another 14 years before claiming their next championship, a triumph masterminded by the great forward Florian Albert.
Tales of derbies past
1956 proved to be another watershed year as the political situation once again intervened, this time in the shape of the Hungarian Revolution, with demonstrators taking to the streets to protest against the Communist government imposed by the Soviet Union.
The uprising began just as Honved were travelling to Spain for the first leg of a European Cup tie against Athletic Bilbao. After going down to a 3-2 defeat, the players decided against returning home, where Soviet troops had been deployed to bring the uprising to an end, opting instead to play the second leg of the tie in Brussels.
A 3-3 draw led to their exit from the competition and the break-up of the team, with some players deciding to go back to Hungary and others choosing to live in exile and look for a new club, among them Puskas, Kocsis and Czibor, who joined Real Madrid, Young Fellows Zurich and Roma respectively.
The 1956 Hungarian championship was suspended and the following year Honved came close to being relegated. It would be another 25 years before they won the title again, in 1980, the start of another glory era that would bring them eight more league crowns, the last of them coming in 1993, with legendary goalscorer Lajos Detari making a major contribution to that period of domination.
Though Ferencvaros suffered less as a result of political upheaval, they did undergo several name changes in the late 1940s and early 1950s, first of all taking on the name of the trade union EDOSZ before becoming Kinizsi, in tribute to the 15th-century Magyar general Pal Kinizsi, a name they would retain until 1956.
Despite the instability of the times, the Green Eagles remained a force in the game, enjoying significant success in the 1960s. In 1965, for example, they became the one and only Hungarian side to win a major European trophy, beating Juventus in the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the forerunner of the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Europa League.
Though in the doldrums, Honved nevertheless remained uncomfortable opponents for the men in green, with the political troubles of the 1950s leaving an indelible mark on the fixture.
The rivalry today
The 21st century began with what is generally referred to in Hungarian football as the “fall of Budapest”, as the capital’s big four gradually lost ground to the country’s upwardly mobile provincial clubs. Leading the way have been Videoton, from the city of Szekesfehervar, and Debrecen, who have won all six of their league championships since Ferencvaros’s last triumph in 2004.
Honved entertain their cross-town rivals on Matchday 20 of the Hungarian league on Sunday, with the two lying sixth and fifth respectively and three points separating them. Though both clubs’ title chances are slim, their fans will still turn out in force for a special fixture that is central to Hungarian footballing history and a lasting reminder of its past glories, the architects of which are commemorated in the names of their stadiums and of the street on which one of those grounds stands.