Caricatures of Irish road workers breast-feeding their shovels, as five of them watch a sixth dig a hole, mesh seamlessly with a vision of BKK controllers guarding the top of the metro escalators, desultorily checking travel passes, while chatting idly amongst themselves. Neither are advertisements for the Confucian theory that if you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.
I’m still trying to figure out what my passion is in life. When I finally do, so much will click into place. In the meantime, when I come across it in others, I am awed by its power to inspire.
Last weekend I went to Békéscsaba for a disznóvágás (pig killing) with players from Békéscsaba Előre ‒ the local football club (of which I’m a fan). I met lots of fascinating people, two in particular who between them illustrated the power of passion so vividly that I envied them and such envy in me is rare.
Thomas Michel Prasler has been playing with the team for 11 months. He came to Békéscsaba from Romania, via Germany, where at 24 he was already on the cusp of being too old to break into professional football. For a man who has ‘lots more football in his legs’, not playing the game wasn’t an option. He sought out trials around Europe, scored some goals, and was signed last year by the Hungarian club. It feels good, he says, to be part of a team, a team that plays together as one, rather than as individuals. Injuries aside, he could have ten years of professional football left in him and he plans to make the most of it. It’s work, hard work. Staying fit, avoiding injury, giving the fans something to be proud of, it takes it out of you. But when the passion is there, it’s not work as most of us understand the term.
Listening to Thomas, I was struck by his single-minded determination. Currently nursing an injury, it’ll be a few months before he starts for Békéscsaba Előre again, but until then, every day’s training takes him one day closer to doing what he loves. The five-year-old, who grew up in Germany falling asleep clutching his football, is still very much alive in the sportsman he is today.
Baukó Tusi András has been with the Club for 50 years. He used to play himself back in the 1950s and 1960s and never wanted to leave. Football is in his blood, too. As kit manager/masseur, this demi-god is a local institution. Loved and respected (and occasionally feared), he has seen many changes in the industry. Passion, a desire to be the best, club loyalty, all these motivators are being supplanted by money as the game becomes more lucrative, more cut-throat. Some 500 or so players have passed through Tusi’s hands in 50 years and they still come back to say hello to the man who helped shape their careers as players and their lives as men. For him, attitude is more important than skill. Technique can be honed with training and discipline, he says, but heart and passion have to come from within. As for himself, life without his work at Békéscsaba Előre doesn’t bear thinking about.
Although poles apart in both age and position, for Thomas and Tusi their work is their raison d’etre, a religion almost, that brings with it the fervent passion of the most devout devotee. And while Thomas, on the pitch, might get the glory, Tusi reigns supreme in the locker rooms. Each does what he does best and does it with an enthusiasm and a dedication that is sadly missing from so many working lives today. For this pair, Confucius got it right.
First published in the Budapest Times 16 January 2015