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Hungary is football-mad this summer - and not even arguments over the Puskás gala match could put a stop to that. The great teams are visiting Hungary one after another, Debrecen crushed the Croatian champions, and Hungarian footballers are being snapped up by major national leagues. But will this improve football's image in Hungary?

It was strange to see how seriously Croatians take matches in the national league. And it was stranger still to see how quickly our clubs can seize the limelight. While Dalmatia fell into mourning, in Hungary the jubilation began at the news of Debrecen's victory.

When Zalaegerszeg beat Manchester United 1-0, Tibor Nyilasi, a childhood hero of mine, said that it takes just one goal for Hungary to turn into 'Footballand', if only for a few days.

And this summer we are in Footballand once again, even if Debrecen lost in Manchester. Real Madrid is visiting, the Argentinians are coming (revenge for 1978, perhaps?), Manchester United are coming for the return match. And Debrecen, and maybe even Sopron could yet bring other major clubs to visit.

Debrecen. The three-goal difference between the giant of the English league and the Hungarian champion is real enough. But still...Halmosi scored a legitimate goal. And unfortunately, Hungary is not enough of a football power to impress a referee like Luis Medina Cantalejo. Would he have done the same if the score-line had been at 1-0? Certainly, a Puhl, a Frisk or a Collina would hardly have blown the whistle. But maybe Cantalejo was worried about what Alex Ferguson would say after the match. Was he worried that UEFA would be reluctant to give him the next big match to referee? A goal is a goal. And would Roy Keane have been allowed to stay on the pitch even in the Hungarian third division after the scene he made at this match?

But there are more positive signs: UTE and Diósgyőr easily beat Ipswich town in last year's second-division championship. A small victory? Not necessarily: to be competing at a Division One (or Coca-Cola Championship, as we must now call it) level is perfectly respectable.


 

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