Hungary is one of the countries that have had a great impact on football. The country’s national team redefined the sport and contributed significantly to revolutionising football internationally, particularly in the 1950s.
Today the team may not be one of the best in Europe, but it has a glorious past. The country’s residents have harboured a love for football for a long time like none other and revere it over any other sport.
This article offers a brief insight into the history of football in Hungary and the sport’s current status in the country.
History of football in Hungary
Football was formally played in Hungary as early as the 1800s. The first football club in Hungary, the Budapesti Torna Club, was established in 1897 and was soon followed by other football clubs. In 1898, the first professional football match was held between two teams, Muegyetemi FC and the BTC.
The Hungarian Football Federation was established in January 1901 as the sport’s national governing body. The federation had 13 clubs and held its first championship the same year. Hungary began to participate internationally in the following years, including the first Olympic football competition in 1912 and FIFA World Cup. In 1953, Hungary became the first non-UK team to beat the England team by 6:3.
The 1950s were the same decade when the Hungarian national football team rose to a prominent position in international football. The team known as the Golden Team at that time comprised some of the best players, including Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Szusza, Ferenc Puskas, Laszlo Kubala, Nandor Hidegkuti and Gyula Grosics, among others. This team remained unbeaten for 32 successive matches and won the Gold medal in the Olympic Games in 1952. Not only that, but the team also reached the final of the World Cup in 1954.
However, the glorious era of the Golden Team was short-lived. After the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, many star players chose not to return to the country and joined other teams in Western Europe instead.
In the 1966 World Cup, Hungary lost to Portugal but recorded victories against stronger participants, including Brazil and Bulgaria and proceeded to the quarter-finals. The team participated in three world cups after this but never got past the group stage. The team also qualified for the 1972 Euro Cup, where it finished in third place.
The 1980s marked an era of decline for Hungary. After the Communist regime fell in 1989, financial woes started for Hungarian football clubs, which also had an impact on the national team. It got to a point where the team was relegated to the lowest ranks of football in Europe. It was downhill from then on; however, in recent years, the team has made efforts to improve the game quality and revive its ranking in football globally.
Hungarian National Football Team
The Hungarian national football team currently ranks 36th in FIFA, which is quite an improvement from its lowest rank of 87 in 96, but a step down from 18th place where it was in 2016. Post the Communist regime fall in the country in 1989; the national team could not qualify for any major international tournament from 1990 to 2014.
However, in 2016, Hungary finally qualified for the Euro 2016. It secured first place in the group by defeating Austria and tying the match with Iceland and Portugal to reach the round of 16, where it lost to Belgium. Following this, the team qualified for Euro 2020 and was promoted to the 2022-23 UEFA Euro Nations League A.
The Hungarian women’s national football team has been playing internationally since 1985. It played its first international match against West Germany, where it won. The team is currently placed in 42nd place in the FIFA rankings.
Domestic football competition in Hungary
The Nemzeti Bajnokság, also known as NB I, is Hungary’s highest professional football division. The league is currently placed 28th according to UEFA rankings. The NB I was formed in 1901 and currently comprises 12 teams. The current league champions are Ferencvaros, who have also won the most championship titles, 33 to be precise.
The Nemzeti Bajnokság follows a promotion and relegation system with the Nemzeti Bajnokság II, the second-highest professional football division in the country, also formed in 1901. The NB II comprises 20 teams and follows a relegation system with the NB III.
The top domestic level competition in the country is the Magyar Kupa, or the Hungarian Cup, which was formally launched in 1909. The champion of the NB I qualify for the UEFA Champions League, while the runner-up team and the winner of the Magyar Kupa qualify to play in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualification round. The bottom two teams from the NB I are relegated to the NB II.