How sports can affect a whole country’s mood even during a pandemic?
Sports are important in people’s lives, many of us do some kind of exercise, others just like to watch and talk about sport. Sports have a lot of positive effects, but for me the most important is that they connect people. Every country has its own favorite and most popular sport, and in some places, it has a tremendous impact on people and social relations.
Hungary is one of those places where the number one sport connects individuals and groups more than anything else. Soccer is the most popular sport in Hungary. The press and the people go crazy every time, when the Hungarian national team is going to play. This is one of those moments when the whole country comes together and roots for the same goal, for the Hungarian success. In the past the Hungarian soccer was very strong and famous, everybody who likes soccer heard about the Golden Team, back in the 1950s. The legendary 6-3 against England in 1953, and the loss of the World Cup final against Germany in 1954…good and bad memories. Soccer fans all over the world heard the names of Puskas, Kocsis, Bozsik, Czibor and Kubala; they were legends, and they are still considered as the greatest football players of all time. For example, my brother’s coach calls him Puskas, because he plays really well and he is also Hungarian.
Then something happened after that famous generation, the Hungarian soccer started to struggle and weaken. Hungary failed to qualify for the World Cups and the European Championship. People started to get frustrated and sad, because the national team was unable to qualify for major tournaments. No matter how famous coaches led our national team, they were unable to reach the goal. We had some very serious losses during 2010 and 2015, we lost to Andorra, not to mention the disastrous 1-8 with the Netherlands. Soccer fans were always cheering, they always hoped that the national team could do better, but it didn’t come in the last 30 or more years. There were matches where the national team played so badly that the ultras made the soccer players take off their shirts, because they were not worthy to stand for the Hungarian national team. These were really tough times.
Everybody tried to find the reasons for the failures and turn these events around. Soccer clubs invested a lot into players, coaches and most recently in stadiums. And in 2016, with the leadership of Pal Dardai and Bernd Storck something finally changed, we qualified for Euro 2016. The Euro is like a World Cup, but just for European national teams. Basically it’s the former European Championship with a new name and branding. It was a huge success, everybody celebrated in Hungary. There were big parades and parties all night. I can’t forget that feeling, people were happy and proud to be Hungarian. There was joy in people’s eyes, and all kinds of people celebrated together. Nothing mattered, people from all ages, sizes, looks, genders and origins, they enjoyed the success. That was my first experience about how easily soccer can bring people together. Then the entire summer was amazing, the national team played very well in the tournament and the whole country was watching the games. Everywhere I went I heard people talking about this success. After the tournament the Hungarian soccer started to get better. In the following years our club teams managed to qualify for Europa League, the second most prestigious club competition in Europe. Then in this year Ferencvaros qualified for the Champions League, the biggest competition, only the best 32 clubs of Europe can play for it. Ferencvaros is one of the biggest clubs in Hungary, with a huge fan base and it’s the most popular football club of the country. It was established in 1899 so has a long history and has huge respect among people.
And that is not all, the Hungarian National Team achieved success again, because it qualified for the Euro2020. This happened just a few days before. It creates an amazing atmosphere. It also helps people survive and have a better time during these COVID-19 days.
During these times I feel myself special and happy to be a Hungarian kid, it has an indescribable feeling and environment. And it is so amazing to tell my friends that Hungary made it, and to tell them that Hungary will be there among the best of the bests. Soccer is more than a sport in Hungary, it brings people together, unites the nation and makes unforgettable happy memories for the whole country.