Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Debrecen Beacons

Debrecen, Debreceni VSC, DVSC or just plain old Dɛbrɛt͡sɛni veː ɛʃ t͡se, call them what you like, but they're currently Hungary's biggest footballing success story. DVSC have sent the many clubs of Budapest home with their tails between their legs in the last decade. They've won the five of the last six league titles, and have become the shining beacons of Hungarian football.

This week sees the annual EFW Oktoberfest take place. I'll be joined by 30 like-minded souls seeking thrills and spills in both Hungary and Slovakia: five games across four days starting with the Europa League tie between Debrecen and PSV Eindhoven. To launch this festival of football I thought I'd find out a wee bit more about the club whose scarves we'll be frantically waving around our heads on our first night.

Lifelong fan Janos Varga agreed to answer a few questions with the help of one or two supporters groups. We conducted the interview in Hungarian, but I'll translate it all for you now. Blink, blink, I mean no blinks:

You've had problems with UEFA regarding your current stadium and have had to move big European matches to Budapest, how has this gone down with the DVSC supporters? Last year when we qualified to the group stages of the Champions League everyone was in an euphoric mood and supporters considered the travelling as a usual football trip. These trips have their own special atmosphere: drinking beers and meeting with other groups of fans on the highway is just fun. All These DVSC matches in Budapest were played in a fully filled stadium: more than 40 thousand supporters. Of course we knew that this can't go on forever.

This year we started the CL qualification at home in Debrecen against Levadia Talinn. Then we had to play in Szusza Ferenc stadium in Budapest (the stadium of our great rivals Ujpest) against Basel. After elimination from the Champions League, we played Litex Lovech in the Europa League play-off , but yet again, not in Debrecen: the match was organized in Nyiregyhaza (also great rival, maybe the greatest). And the Europa League group matches have been organized in Budapest, again. As anyone would understand at this point many supporters had enough of travelling. Thus against Metalist Harkiv the attendance was around 10.000. Hopefully against PSV and Sampdoria this number will be higher but one should see the trend: fans of DVSC had enough of travelling around the country to see their team "at home" in Europe.

There is a joke spreading amongst the fans: An Estonian, a Bulgarian and a Swiss fan are having beer together (fans of Levadia, Litex and Basel). The Estonian says 'Did you see the match between us and DVSC in Debrecen...' but he is interrupted by the Bulgarian 'Oh come on! What were you doing in Debrecen, we played against them as well and their stadium is in Nyiregyhaza!'. The Swiss corrects them 'Both of you are incorrect, DVSC is a team from Budapest. What I can't understand is why are the seats purple and white as the clubs colours are red and white...'. (Hint: colours of Ujpest are purple and white).

Travelling through the country on workdays is indeed exhausting and there are many who can't do it because of health or work reasons so he/she misses the best matches. But the worst issue is that there's nothing like the atmosphere we have in Debrecen and it's almost impossible to recreate it in a foreign stadium. Supporters of Debrecen are famous being the 12th player of the team and if there's no such atmosphere the players feel that.

I see that a new stadium is being planned back in Debrecen, when will that be ready and, because of all those aforementioned problems, you must be looking forward to that? That stadium is still a plan and exists only on blueprints, actually. To be more precise: there are many plans. So far it seems that the leaders of the city, the Hungarian Government and the club has come to an agreement about the location and the capacity of the new facility. However, not a single tiny step of work has been done yet. The optimistic estimation of the opening is 2012.

Of course we are looking forward to finally witnessing the opening game as the building of the new stadium has been an ongoing promise from the Mayor of Debrecen since 2004. The debate about the name of the new stadium has also started amongst the fans.

The current Stadion Oláh Gábor Út hasn't impressed the UEFA suits.

DVSC seem to have a lot of rivalries in the Hungarian league, which is regarded as your biggest game of the season? If you're talking about the Hungarian Champion title race, then our biggest rival has been the team of Videoton recently. It was very close last year and this season will be the same. The match against them is very important for every fan and that can decide where the title goes as well.

Considering the rivalries between supporters groups the biggest games are played against Ferencvaros (FTC), Ujpest and Nyiregyhaza. As FTC and Ujpest are teams from Budapest this conflict is based on the well-known Capital City/Countryside City conflict. The rivalry with Nyiregyhaza has historical roots as Nyiregyhaza is the closest big city and always has been a rival to Debrecen to be a centre of the region in every aspects of life, not just from sport point of view.

When matches against these above mentioned four teams are played the atmosphere of the stadium changes. Our players also feel that and therefore they play with double the effort to overcome the opponent. This season there won't be matches against Nyiregyhaza as they have been relegated to the Hungarian 2nd League.

With all those rivalries, is there much crowd trouble at games in Hungary? Not much but it happens. Problematic matches are well-secured by police forces and security staff of the clubs. On the other hand, for example, I can't recall a Ferencvaros vs. Ujpest match in the last 10 years which had gone smoothly. But one should know that these crowd troubles are not as serious as in Serbia or Russia or at some matches in Italy. The majority of the troubles in Hungary are children's fight compared to a big Serbian trouble for instance.

So how safe is watching football in Hungary? As I mentioned earlier the problematic matches are well-secured. Therefore if you manage to avoid the other teams' supporters then you're just fine. However, I feel that the time has yet to come when families will attend a match together as a great freetime activity on Saturday.

How much does a match ticket cost to see DVSC? A regular Hungarian Championship game costs around 1000 to 2500 Hungarian Forints (£3-8). Your ticket to see DVSC against PSV in Budapest will cost between 1500 and 8000 Hungarian Forints (£5-26).

How many supporters groups do you have? (Date of foundation in brackets).The biggest and leading group of the North Stand is the SZUD [Szívtiprók Ultras Debrecen (1994) - Heartbreakers Ultras Debrecen]. This group has several platforms or sections e.g.: SZUD Budapest (2000), SZUD Nagyvarad [Oradea] (2004), SZUD Kölykök [Young] (2010) and SZUD Jugend (2001 *). The other major active group is the Force Field (1996), they had a platform FF sez. Italy (2001 *).

Beside these groups there are two active female groups in the North Stand: Vadmacskák [Wild Cats] (1997), Sziporkák [Sparks] (2009).

Currently inactive groups which are/were famous of their history: Red Veterans DVSC (1970s), Balmaz Front (1999), Szoboszlói Lokisták (2003), Skins Debrecen (2005), Brigada DVSC (Vratsa – Bulgaria, 2006), Red Front DVSC (1991), North Side Hooligans (1992), Red Territory DVSC (1993), Unscarred (1994), Brigade Ultra (1996), Ultra Sharks (1997), Red Hell DVSC (1997), Terror Side (1998), Bad Boys Debrecen (1999), Boys 1902 (2007) Minor, also inactive groups: Killer Boys (1993), Red Picur [Little Red] (1993), Red Phoenix (1993), Red Zone Debrecen (1994), Red Military DVSC (1994), Fanatics (1995), Red Devils (1995), Red Sharks Hooligans (1996), Red Side (1998), Lokisták (1998), Red Devils DVSC (2000), Con Air (2001).

In the '90s and '00s there were active groups on the South and East Stands as well. Major groups of the East Stand: Wrong Side of the Tracks (1993), Brutal Side (1996). Minor groups of the East Stand: Evil Twins (1993), Another Victim (1995). Major groups of the South Stand: Red Kings (1993), Civic City Rowdies (1995), Red Side Power (1996), Sonderling (2000). Minor group of the South Stand: Mad Vikings (2000).

Pah, is that all? Ha ha, well finally there are/were some small groups which deserve to be mentioned here: Debrecen Huligánok [Debrecen Hooligans] (2009), PFSZ, PFN, Alfa Group, Tócoskerti Kopaszok, Orange Commando, Red Lions DVSC, East Glory, Alway Ultras, Ultras Over 30, Forever Ultras, Ultras Debrecen, Titkolt Ellenállás [Secret Resistance], The Firm, Debrecen Finnest, Debrecen Casuals, SZUD Elite, SZUD Csöves [SZUD Homeless] and there were even Debrecen supporters groups in Berlin and London!

Blimey, so clearly there is an ultra culture in Hungarian football then? Indeed there is. An ultra leader recently stated in a newspaper interview that being an ultra in Hungary is a way of life. The ultra groups are closed and hard to get in, you have to earn their trust if you want to join them.

Ultra fans of DVSC are true fans of Debrecen and the club and they do everything they can to support the team and therefore they have the respect of the majority of the non-ultra supporters. They are not intolerant without a reason so if you decide to see a match from the ultra section and you sing during the match truly from your heart then they're just fine with you.

The club has historical links to the railways, is that something the supporters embrace and still talk about? No, not at all. Almost everyone in Debrecen is familiar with this historical fact but it's not a hot topic. The V in the club's name stands for Rail (Vasut) and it's kept there out of respect for traditions. However, the nickname of the club refers to the railway roots: "Loki" is derived from the word locomotive.

What are the biggest problems facing Hungarian league football at the moment?
Finance, security and quality. Finance has to be mentioned because of the lack of sponsors at the teams. The Hungarian clubs work with an extremely low budget thus it's very unlikely to any of them can achieve something significant in the CL or the EL. Therefore Hungarian football is not visible and does not gain the attention of large companies that could be considered as potential sponsors.

Security is a problem because even though many people would be interested in matches between rivals they consider it risky because some crowd trouble might happen. As I said earlier those times are yet to come when families will go to see such matches together. Also Hungarian stadiums are not well prepared for handling huge crowds and only some of the stadiums are equipped to help the security staff track down problematic guys.

Quality is a problem which is closely related to finance, of course. The teams of the Hungarian League can't afford to sign quality players. So we think one other option is left for Hungarian teams: to establish a Football Academy where they can train well-selected children for the club. Such an Academy was founded this year in Debrecen and the first class started its studies in September. The students of the Academy have a flexible timetable which includes traditional school lessons and trainings as well. This will take them 8 years to reach GCE. After passing GCE (or GCSE) they can continue their studies at the University of Debrecen or concentrate on football only, it's completely up to them.

And finally, all the supporters have red and white blood inside them according to the club song. That must confuse the local doctors There are many DVSC fans amongst the local doctors, so they are prepared to encounter such blood samples.

This is Debrecen A fantastic article on the club by Tomasz Mortimer on the equally fantastic In Bed With Maradona.

* Supporters groups marked with asterisk are not active anymore.

- Feel free to comment below -


Real_John said...

Nice stuff.
One small correction: DVSC won 5 titles out of 6 seasons but may the prophet talk from you! :)

Danny Last said...

Heh...he Cheers Real John. I've taken that title back now and amended it to five.

Pat said...

Red and white, what's not to like Dan ;-)