TIBOR PIETSCH 2022.03.12 19:31 Frissítve: 2022.03.12 19:31

Szabolcs Huszti: I gave up my principles once...

Szabolcs Huszti took responsibility for his opinion as a player, and he hasn't changed as a coach either. So far, the 38-year-old expert has told our newspaper about his experiences, the title he won with Debrecen, the reason for his resignation, and the playing style he represents.

Huszti Szabolcs tavaly októberben távozott Debrecenből (Fotó: Kovács Péter, archív)


– Did you just return from the U.S.?
– Yes – Szabolcs Huszti said. – I keep in touch with a lot of my former teammates, and I can call Steve Cherundolo, whom I met in Hanover, a friend of mine. At the end of his career, he also started coaching and managed the Las Vegas Lights last year. However, he took over the management of Los Angeles FC in Major League Soccer in January. I wanted to visit him last year. It didn't work out then, but it did this February. I've been accepted into the A License coaching program. I study what and where I can – I combined work with pleasure in Los Angeles. I checked how Steve worked, he showed me what he could, and gave me great materials. I was at games, and I checked out the recently completed $30-million training center...

– Was there time for some nostalgia?
– Of course! I'm not on any social media platform, but Los Angeles FC posted a picture of us on their official page, which many people commented on. Most of the feedback came from Hanover, and all of them were positive. It seems they haven't forgotten us. Maybe it's because the club was in its heyday when we played there, we even made it to the Europa League group stage. Unfortunately, the team has been in Bundesliga 2. for some time now, and I wish they could get back into the topflight as soon as possible.

With his former Hanover teammate Steve Cherundolo in Los Angeles (Photo: Los Angeles FC)

During the years in Hanover, would you have thought with Steve Cherundolo that one day you would talk to each other as coaches?
– Not at all! As far as I'm concerned, I realized I wanted to remain in the football world as a coach when I was forced to stop playing because of my knee injury. Since then, I've been doing everything I can to keep training myself. I haven't even turned 40 yet, but I think I'll still have something to learn at 60 if I still sit on the bench...

What did you tell him about your latest experiences?
– There was no need to tell him anything because I keep in touch with Steve and two other former teammates, Vinícius Bergantin and Altin Lala, every day, so they learned that I was the coach of Debrecen from February to October last year. They knew that we had won NB II to advance to NB I. They also knew that I had quit in October.

The question often arises: who is a good coach? Since Szabolcs Huszti was able to work with excellent professionals in the German, French and Russian topflights, we were curious to see what he thinks.

"A lot of people think that a successful coach is the best, but I don't necessarily agree with that," said the former midfielder capped 51 times. "At Zenit, I got more opportunities from Dick Advocaat than from Luciano Spalletti. The team was more successful with the former coach than with the latter, but if I had to choose, I'd still vote for the Italian trainer because I feel I have learned more from him. Unfortunately, a coach is judged solely on results most of the time and not on the work he does in everyday life."

How do you look back on your eight months spent at Loki?
– Mostly positively. I'm grateful for the opportunity I had – of course, I wouldn't have minded if this period had lasted longer. It's for sure that I gained a lot of experience right at the beginning of my coaching career. I went there with the aim of creating a style that fits Western European football. We wanted to play football. That's what I was like as a footballer and that's what I insist on as a coach. Unfortunately, few clubs in Hungary play elegant football that does build-ups with short passes – of course, there are exceptions, with all due respect to them! When I took over the team, it was at the top after twenty-four rounds, and then won the league, which showed that DVSC was successful with the game I imagined.

You just said that you look back on the months in Debrecen mostly positively. What were the negatives?
– I gave up my principles in the Hungarian Cup match against Kecskemét. At that time, we were under a lot of pressure because everyone expected us to advance but we kept in mind that all that mattered was the result, so we played anti-football. And we lost. We were still leading at the end of normal time, but in the final moments of added time, the opponent equalized and then scored the winning goal in the extra time. Maybe if we ended the match with 1-0, I'd still be the coach of Loki. However, in hindsight, I say it's not so bad that it turned out that way because it proved to me that bunker football can only be successful for a while. Don't get me wrong, I felt bad that we got eliminated, but at the same time, it only confirmed that if I go down a road, I shouldn't deviate from it. I have no intention of comparing myself with Pep Guardiola, Jürgen Klopp, or two of my former coaches, Luciano Spalletti and Niko Kovač, but anyone who knows their work knows that there is no way they will give up the philosophy they represent. It's amazing to watch the football their teams play, and that's the direction we should be following. Anyone can push the bus in front of the goal, there's still a chance to win a match 1-0 with a goal from a counterattack, but this is hardly the recipe for long-term success.

In hindsight, do you regret tendering your resignation after the game against Kecskemét?
– If someone does this, he has to accept that the request will be approved. I'd like to point out that I did not ask for it, and I did not receive a single penny after my departure. I gave up my principles and learned the lesson. I still say today that the idea was good. This is also proven by the fact that after we returned to Debrecen from Kecskemét, thirteen players asked me to reconsider my decision because they did not want me to leave. It felt great, but there was no turning back. The management told me the next day that they had accepted my resignation, and there was no problem with that at all.

I take it as if what happened did not discourage you, based on your words.
– Not at all! You have to start somewhere... I started in NB II, but I'm proud of the league title, and I don't think I should be ashamed of the fact that when I said goodbye to Loki, the team was in 10th place. I stuck to my ideas for as long as I could. I think football philosophy is sacred! When I watch the international matches of the Hungarian teams and the players pass the ball in their own half, I often hear the reporter almost begging: "Oh, not our half!" Why don't I hear that at a Manchester City or Liverpool game? I had a lot of arguments about the fact that when someone says Hungarian footballers can't play under pressure, they can't do build-ups, and I say without hesitation that yes, they can! Especially on home grounds. They don't have to play against Bayern or Real, but other NB I teams! Of course, this style requires a certain skill, the goalkeeper must also be good with his feet, and yes, it is also important for the coach to have enough courage. In any case, I am glad that the Hungarian coach training is going in this direction. The presentations of its leader Zsolt Fórián and Antal Róth confirm this. It's good to see this effort.

– Have you received an offer since you left Debrecen?
– After the sports director of Kisvárda, Attila Révész, said that he saw potential in me, I talked to him. I was honored by his interest, but we didn't reach an agreement. I don't have to rush. I graduate from the A License training in October, and in the meantime, I will use my contacts to reach as many foreign clubs as possible. I already have the following two destinations: Frankfurt and Leverkusen. I also checked in with Niko Kovač, who's recently worked at Monaco, and he indicated that he'd want to see me, but by the time I was about to go there, he had been sacked. Unfortunately, that's what the coaches' lives are like.

Loki is three points ahead of Gyirmót that is on the of relegating. How do you feel about your former team?
– I'm worried about the team, but I think it's going to fight to stay in. I'm rooting for the players. I'm really grateful to the club for the opportunity, and I could not have wished for a better staff. Despite Gábor Toldi, to whom I thank for his loyalty, and I actually got there as outsiders, a really good team was forged. I even said it back then, "Kids, this is the best staff I've ever had..." Everyone was honest, we debated a lot with the team's interest in mind, although the last word was always mine. The good relationship has remained to this day, so I am rooting for DVSC because of the friendship between us. I also wish the best for my last team, Fehérvár. It feels as I left the locker room yesterday, well okay, two days ago, even though it's been almost two years. It's a fact that Vidi is not in a good form, but the team has the strong squad to come out of the hole sooner or later. I hope the club succeeds sooner rather than later.

"My body has signaled that it's time to finish," you said in June 2020, announcing that you are forced to retire from competitive football due to your knee injury. Has your condition improved since then?
– After I had another surgery, yes. I can walk and play sports properly, play with my kids, and that's enough for me. Although anyone who saw how I kicked the ball during training in Debrecen may have thought that my left leg was never worn out...

Translated by Vanda Orosz

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