Fans and stars flood into the new Puskás Aréna

Kun ZoltánKun Zoltán
2023.03.20. 15:48
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A great atmosphere, a beautiful stadium, a great community experience - the Puskás Aréna is the place to be for the European Championship qualifiers (Photo: Magyar Nemzet/Mirkó István)
National team matches, Europa League round of 16 matches, Fradi Cup final: most of the time, huge crowds of spectators visit Puskás Aréna, which has quickly become the home of Hungarian football and, of course, Hungarian football fans since its opening in 2019. 

The easily-to-remember website jalgpallihaigla.ee reported 2,000 spectators, but there were certainly not that many of them. Rather let's believe Nemzeti Sport: on November 19, 2003, 457 spectators watched the Hungary-Estonia match on Üllői út.

Yes, 457 spectators at a national team match.

Well, it's certainly not a high number.

On Thursday, two decades later, the Hungarian team will play against Estonian again, and there will probably be 30, 40, maybe 50 times as many spectators. Not to mention then the opening game of the European Championship qualifiers a few days later when, despite the late start on Monday night, the 45,000 people will cheer for Hungarian victory against Bulgaria in the Puskás Aréna.


One of the most memorable moments in the history of the arena: children under 14 years old in the stands during the NL match against England, which was originally supposed to be played behind closed doors (Photo: Attila Török)
One of the most memorable moments in the history of the arena: children under 14 years old in the stands during the NL match against England, which was originally supposed to be played behind closed doors (Photo: Attila Török)

 

It's obvious that the opening game in 2019 and the European Championship matches two years later were packed, and it's not particularly surprising that last year's Nations League qualifiers had people queuing online for hours. But in the Puskás Aréna a preparation match has already been played in front of 50,000 spectators, the Hungarian Cup final brought in almost 40,000 fans, and we remember well the amazing atmosphere at the Europa League match on Thursday.

Of course, it is very important that the Hungarian teams do well, the stakes are high, or even that real world stars strengthen the opposing team, but even with all this in mind, we can still say that this new facility undoubtedly has the magic to make you feel good, or even - to use a pathos – feel at home, regardless of the result of the match. After all, what else could a stadium be for but to provide entertainment? And even if clean buffets, toilets or a barrier-free elevator cannot score a goal, they are nowadays an integral part of a community event.

So far, more than thirty matches have been played in the Puskás Aréna, some of them unfortunately behind closed doors (and hey, what would have happened in the stands against Iceland in the last five minutes...! ), with a total of almost 800,000 fans. Perhaps the only match where fewer people showed up than expected is the 2021 Újpest-Fehervar Cup final with 4,500 spectators. This number is even low when the Purple and Whites' fans didn't attend the match because of the coat of arms fuss. Let's add that this year's cup final is not expected to be a full house either as the teams that attracted the biggest crowds got eliminated early. At least filling the lower stand could be another challenge for MLSZ with the usual, very fair solution to allow young players from Hungarian youth teams to sit in the stands.

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Of course, the arena's three and a half years so far are still a success story, thanks mainly to the surprisingly good results achieved by the national team. We have now reached the point where the supporters' club organized by the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) has almost 150,000 members, which is an astonishing number. It is worth joining as membership usually comes with a 20% discount on tickets, plus the first option to buy, and because fans outside the club couldn't get tickets to some of the Nations League matches. (Hopefully, there will be no more IT gimmicks in the future. It is quite disillusioning when, after four hours of waiting in a virtual queue for the match of the year, the system ranks you as the 16,000th person waiting for a game instead of opening the gate of wonders.)

For the upcoming European Championship qualifying series, most people – 30,000, according to the federation – have already bought their tickets, or more precisely their season tickets. It's not bold of us to say that 30,000 season tickets are not something that many national teams have, which puts Rossi's team at the European podium, if not the top.


Balázs Dzsudzsák retired from the national team and even separately said goodbye to the fans after the game against Greece (Photo: Magyar Nemzet/Mirkó István)
Balázs Dzsudzsák retired from the national team and even separately said goodbye to the fans after the game against Greece (Photo: Magyar Nemzet/Mirkó István)

There will certainly be another sold-out football event at the stadium this year, as the Europa League final will be held in Budapest on May 31. There have already been four European Championship matches, a European Super Cup, and the Europa League final comes next. Who knows, soon there might be a Champions League final as a "guest" – presumably, Paris could easily be surpassed in terms of organization...

The question whether there will be a sold-out national team match this year is just as important. Well, it is unlikely at the games against Lithuania and Bulgaria, but after some fine wins against Serbia, it could happen in September. But it would probably be the highlight of the tournament if the Hungarian national team qualifies for the European Championship on November 19, 2023 by defeating Montenegro in front of 67,000 spectators – exactly 20 years later after the unforgettable 457...

 

Son Heung Min, Tottenham's foreign player, posted a picture smiling from the Puskás Aréna (Photo: Facebook)
Son Heung Min, Tottenham's foreign player, posted a picture smiling from the Puskás Aréna (Photo: Facebook)
PEP GUARDIOLA, manager of Manchester City ON THE MARCH 2021 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND OF 16 IN BUDAPEST AGAINST MÖNCHENGLADBACH: There are pitches with great grass, like Arsenal, Anfield, Old Trafford. In Budapest, the grass was unbelievably good like a red carpet. It was wonderful!
PEP GUARDIOLA, manager of Manchester City ON THE MARCH 2021 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND OF 16 IN BUDAPEST AGAINST MÖNCHENGLADBACH: There are pitches with great grass, like Arsenal, Anfield, Old Trafford. In Budapest, the grass was unbelievably good like a red carpet. It was wonderful!

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