Five o’clock kick off, she said. It’ll be cold. Very cold.We’re playing under floodlights, he said. It’ll be cold. Very cold. Neither of them said to bring a cushion.
As the newly formed Létavértes International Fan Club made their way to Széchenyi tér in Budapest’s XVth district late yesterday afternoon, I am sure that some were wondering what in God’s name they were doing with their Saturday evening. We’d left a warm pub with some First Division UK football on the screen to trudge to the suburbs to watch a third division Hungarian team play their last game of the league.
Some admitted to not particularly liking football. Others admitted to never having been to watch a live match before. More still reckoned they knew more about it than the players on the pitch. Hailing from Australia, England, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, this mixed-age motley crew had at least made a token effort to wear the Létavértes red and white colours but underneath the woolies no one was any the wiser. It was bloody cold. And for all our collective experience, none of us had brought a hip flask.
We hogged part of the mainly empty stands near midfield and prepared to cheer our boys on to glory. We were definitely in a minority with the home team’s supporters out-yelling us at times. But the difference was that while we were cheering for our lads, everyone else seemed hell bent on berating the referee or dogging the players.
A couple of young boys, sitting with their dad, let off a string of curses which, had they a magical power between them, would have seen guts spilling forth, hearts stopping dead, and teeth rotting out. If you wanted to come to grips with Hungarian obscenities, the stadium was the place to be. Somewhere along the way, the actual football seemed to have been forgotten.
Personally, I have only a vague idea of what is meant by offside. I can’t see well enough to distinguish between a deliberate foul and an accident. And I’m not at all current with the rules and regulations involving yellow cards. But I know enough about heart to recognise it when I see it. And the football yesterday was riddled with heart.
Man for man, our boys were younger, slighter, and more agile. The REAC lads were older, stockier, and not quite as innocent (indeed, I wonder if ‘innocent’ can be used in the same sentence as footballer?) Both sides gave it their all and our lads responded well to the cheering on from the sidelines. They won 1:6.
In an interview afterwards, the TV chap commented to ZS (the LétaV coach and the reason for all of us being there) that it was good to see fans cheering on the football for a change. He said that we’d created a great atmosphere. And the team, in thanks, dedicated one of the goals to us.
The lads did us proud. Coming off the pitch, as we stood and applauded, they looked to the stand and gave us the thumbs up. They’re getting used to us. The first time we appeared on the sidelines, I don’t think they knew quite what was going on. This time though, they had a better notion. It might still bemuse them as to why we’d all be bothered, but they seemed happy out that we’d made the effort.
In a week that saw closure on one chapter of my life and signalled a somewhat manic work period ahead, I am grateful that we got up off our arses and braved the elements to support LétaV. It’s easier to talk about doing stuff that to actually do it – and all too often we leave it to others to fly the flag, happy enough as long as someone is out there supporting. I’m so glad that I was in the stands, too.
Last time we had 10. This time we had 21. Both times we had people from six countries. Next season, who knows. Come on ye boyos!