“They are still surprised that they have to train. They train lightly during the week to avoid muscle fever in the match, it is supposed to make the team more dynamic – I can’t adopt this attitude. Hungarian football had always dreamed of greatness … but they don’t want to walk through the road to greatness.”
— Interview with a former coach of Orbán’s pet football team
Janos Radoki grew up in Germany and made a career as football player and then coach at various German teams. On 29 December 2018 he was appointed as the manager of the Puskás Akadémia, Orbán’s favorite football project that keeps trying to solve its lack of success with spending more and hiring new coaches every time they suffer a particularly embarrassing defeat. Which is all the time.
Radoki was released from his contract on 7 April after he failed to perform a miracle and convince the overpaid national treasures of Puskás Akadémia to start playing football.
To say that he had a culture shock after Germany is an understatement. Some hilarious details from his exit interview:
- Hungarian footballers regard getting signed up for a team as the pinnacle of their career. From then onward, hard training is avoided.
- The players who consider themselves the best think they don’t need to train anymore.
It may be because they don’t see a chance to win or because they have inflated egos, the result is the same.
- Players are risk averse. Their priority is to not get a goal. Coaches have to yell at them to kick the ball or even play, when they feel they could get away with just biding their time. But most coaches have given up on that, too.
- Hungarian football is slooooow. (I can confirm that.) Radoki ended up watching matches in fast forward. (They are equally unenjoyable.)
- The team is capable to make 80 sprints during a match – Leverkusen does 266, for contrast.
- Morale is lacking, they refuse to put in any effort and avoid straining themselves.
- Game is boring and predictable, and so slow, the absence of viewers is unsursprising.
This is why the government also spends on buying and taking audience to matches on buses, often from ridiculously far away. Children are especially well-targeted and teachers receive medals for travelling the most children to football matches.
- Players don’t have routines or strategic training. And when they are told what to do, practice before a match, they still don’t follow strategy. They claim they forget it.
- They are not even willing to follow the nutritional plan, ordering pizza into the changing room.
- The stadium the Academy received from the taxpayer leaves nothing to be desired – but the work morale of the team (of every Hungarian football team) remains lacking.
Or, as Radoki put it:
„Infrastruktur hundert Prozent, Munkastruktur* zero Prozent”
(* munka means work)
Footballers are ridiculously overpaid, regardless of success. (But they also get bonuses if they score or even just do something meaningful on the field.) Their salaries are especially outrageous compared to the national average, which is less only a few hundred euros a month – and that is for those who earn. For many village boys, the only perspective is winning the lottery or getting into football, the only thing the Orbán-government truly and genuinely supports on taxpayers’ money. Becoming a doctor gets you 1500 euros a month (with hundreds of overtime hours and huge responsibility). Getting signed up for a football team, no matter how low ranking, gets you 8000 (national average, the top players earn 15-20 thousand euros a month). And they don’t even have to study for it (or train very hard, or play well, or score, apparently).
As a consequence, not only are boys not motivated to work hard – not even footballers are motivated to play well. Their salaries are quite comfortable in European comparison and moving onto a better, European team would only mean more work – not much more salary.
Puskás Akadémia is one of Orbán’s ugliest projects – and most symbolic of his football megalomania. Their gigantic and exorbitantly expensive stadium was built in Orbán’s birth village, next to Orbán’s birth house, because we simply can’t stop Orbán from spending our tax money on his childhood dream.
Hungarian football is monstrously oversponsored by the state and the corporate tax funneled into it. Orbán’s generosity (with other people’s money) is at full display here, he can’t stop boasting and graciously giving, giving, giving. Clubs regularly get more money than they even dared to ask from Orbán, footballers are as overpaid as they are overconfident, while the actual number of football stadiums built by the Orbán regime is unknown, but definitely more than the 124 stadiums listed on Wikipedia. Naturally, they are overpriced and never stop getting more expensive. And their maintenance is wildly out of range for the towns and villages that have the misfortune of hosting them.
Between 2016-2020, another 215 billion forints (approx. 700 million euros) will be spent on building new ones, and that is a conservative estimate of the stadiums that are known and the costs that are public. Investigative journalists had to follow construction machinery to come to this number and generously left out any other construction that can be used to other purposes (such as training facilities) and are not strictly speaking football stadiums.
And it is a very conservative sum, considering that the Puskás Stadium (not to be confused with the Puskás Akadémia) currently under construction in Budapest will cost more than 700 million euros by itself – its sheer scale putting a strain on the construction industry, soaking up workforce as well and concrete (estimates put the amount of concrete needed for Puskás taking up 40% of the country’s capacity) – and putting pressure on the government’s home building push, among other things.
The tragic waste of Hungarian taxpayer money on Orbán’s hobby doesn’t even end at the borders. Orbán’s former gas fitter and current business avatar, Forber billionaire Mészáros, is buying and building clubs in Slovenia, Croatia and Romania, while the Hungarian budget is extremely eager to boost them some more.