The reporter of index visited the Hungarian football bar in Spain that the family of Andrés Iniesta loves very much. Now, while Hungarian football might not enjoy its heydays, this establishment is flourishing. Erika Beke and Péter Büki, the owners, arrived in Spain as foreigners, but now they have a friendly relationship with the FC Barcelona and star athletes as their guests – like Peter Shilton. Whoever visits them, learns to say “Haladás” (the football team of a Hungarian city, Szombathely). Despite the difficulties, they built up a successful business near the Camp Nou stadium.
“Welcome, my dear, just take a seat, I’ll fetch your pálinka” goes the greeting of Erika Beke: every Hungarian that sets foot in their bar receives a cool glass immediately.
“We don’t serve customer here. We receive guests.”
Even complete strangers leave the place as friends” explains Erika.
Péter Büki tells their story: they met in 2009 and on the 1st of April 2010 (not meant to be an April’s Fool prank) they already moved in together. “I’m from Szombathely, I’ve been obsessed with football since I was four and I’ve played for the Haladás. So when I was moving, I realised that I have countless football relics… A year later our first son was born, and after another 14 months, the second. By that time we knew that we want to start a place abroad based on my relics, where fans can feel at home.”
Péter’s other favourites teams include Liverpool and the national team of Britain, and following them he travelled a lot, understanding the needs of the fans. However, the UK weather was not tempting enough, so they ended up in Barcelona.
„Only” had to pay 12 years’ rent
Choosing the country was the easiest part, the troubles came afterwards, but those could not stop the determined couple. First up, there was the location: it took one year to find the perfect place and then they learned that in the 50s a restriction was made regarding the number of restaurants around the stadium. “This meant that we had to pay 12 years’ worth of rent” Erika recalls. “We had barely enough, but we were optimistic, so made the deal.”
This was when the second problem surfaced: the pipes and wires were so old that they did not get a licence to open, they had to have them all replaced for a fortune, which led to the third strike: the first specialist, who took the job, left with their money without doing anything.
“We were standing there with our two children and my bigger one from a previous relationship, and did not even have enough money to buy tickets home.”
Yet, they did still not give up.
An other-worldly sign contributed to their perseverance. Péter’s mother passed away when they left Hungary, and she used to have a strange collection of porcelain handed and headed, textile witches. “We buried her with 117 of those witches” Erika elaborates. “When we had spent all our money, one day I started tidying the storeroom and found a witch exactly like the ones she collected.”
Péter shows that it is still on the wall. “I don’t really believe in such things, but this coincidence was so uncanny that we interpreted it as a message from my late mother: she is watching over us and we must keep going.”
With family help, they managed to solve the financial issues and did not give up their dream. However, after opening they had to realise that neither the Hungarian football nor the Hungarian cuisine was enough to draw people in. “We managed to open, and no one came. Not the first day, not the next, not after a month.
For eight months we had no guests, but of course we had to pay our expenses.
We didn’t know that Catalonians don’t like any other cuisines. Once we understood that we switched profile.”
Péter connected the FC Barcelona, built a great relationship with them, and helped his friends from all over the world to get tickets – then the guests started to come. Almost 60 per cent of them were Hungarian, the rest mainly foreigners, especially British tourists. Péter did a great deal to meet their needs, so on game nights, you can watch all Champions League games from the bar. “Once the place got so crowded, that we couldn’t squeeze an Irish fan in. So he stood outside in the rain, ate his goulash watching the TV and then left for the Barcelona game.”
Another time in 2017 when the Barcelona won for 6:1, the celebration in the bar was so intense that they actually ran out of pálinka.
British tourist are usually familiar with Hungarian football up to the world-famous Ferenc Puskás, and know about Gábor Király and Zoltán Gera. But by the time they leave, they learn to say “haladás”.
Péter said the greatest visitor in the last four years must have been Peter Shilton, the British recorder goalkeeper. He ate some spaghetti then gave a lecture to fifty British tourists and signed hundreds of gloves and jerseys.
Friends with the Iniesta family
The couple rightly prides themselves on their good relationship with Iniesta’s family. Through his brother-in-law and father, Andrés Iniesta was cheering for Haladás in 2017 to stay in NB I. The business relationship actually started with the wine. Iniesta has his own winery and wine, which Péter and Erika are now distributing in their bar. The family promised them a meeting, and one day, Péter’s phone was ringing: it was Andrés Iniesta and he invited Péter over to his place.
“Of course I said yes” Péter remembers. “I asked my guests to leave, saying ‘sorry but I must visit Andrés Iniesta’.”
According to Péter, Iniesta is just like you would imagine him: friendly, welcoming and humble. They talked for an hour, and a half and Iniesta was up to date with the Hungarian sports life.
However, Erika and Péter still have many dreams ahead of them, for example, having the whole team of FC Barcelona as their guests. And they have every chance to achieve that as well. After their bumpy start, they now own a booming business.
One year they ranked 40th on TripAdvisor out of 8,000 establishments in Barcelona.
Many famous Hungarian athletes return to them as old acquaintances. They are on good terms with the Hungarian consul general, and partly due to his help, they had guests such as the handball teams from Veszprém and Szeged, fencer Emese Szász, swimmer László Cseh, the water polo teams of Szolnok and Eger, national teams as well, and the basketball player Ádám Hanga is also a regular.
Erika and Péter are also keen on charity. Once they asked for a signed jersey from Messi to raise money, and when Iniesta’s brother-in-law heard about it, they received a jersey from them too so that they could auction two relics.
Probably the most surprising fact about them is that they have not visited any of the Barcelona games: “No, we don’t have time for that” they said. “We must attend to our guests from opening until closing.”
If you are Hungarian, or a football fan, or just thirsty in Barcelona, make sure to check this awesome bar out!
Featured image: facebook.com/futballariumbarcelona