Arguably one of the biggest rivalries in Central European football, Újpest versus Ferencváros, is a highlight of the Hungarian football calendar. Despite Ferencváros winning the league last week, the fixture will no doubt be fiercely contested. They will face each other for the final time this season on Saturday. But why is there such a big rivalry between two clubs that are based in completely different parts of Budapest?
Since its inception in 1901, the Hungarian league was dominated by MTK Budapest and Ferencváros; by 1929, these two sides racked up 13 and 11 titles respectively. In fact, no other side had won the league between 1903 and 1929. However, the 1929-1930 season broke this trend, changing the Hungarian football landscape forever. Újpest, a club from a town on the border with Budapest, became the first team outside of the capital to win the Nemzeti Bajnokság I. They went onto win 4 other titles in the 1930s. Their success did not go unnoticed, and a rivalry started developing between them and Ferencváros. While Újpest represented Hungary’s rural communities, the Green Eagles were the club of the Budapest middle class, the majority of whom were of German origin. However, the rivalry was about to reach an intensity that neither fan base could have anticipated at the time.
In 1950, Újpest became incorporated as the 4th district of Budapest, a number which became synonymous with the club for decades to come. More importantly, the communist era heralded a new chapter in Újpest’s history and for the derby as a whole. In the same year, the side became the team of the Ministry of Interior. Being a working-class district in the Hungarian capital with a relatively successful team, it was easy to see why the regime chose Újpest as their club. They received the traditional Dynamo-style badge and were renamed Budapesti Dózsa – and subsequently to Újpesti Dózsa – in honour of György Dózsa. György Dózsa was a Hungarian peasant who led a revolt against the nobility in 1514. It was easy to see the connection between his story and the communist government’s propaganda, and conveniently, his name started with the letter ‘D’.
On the other hand, Ferencváros was the club of resistance. While Újpest represented the oppressors, Ferencváros was the team of the opposition, and their fans were mostly right-winged supporters.
Like other Eastern European leagues after the collapse of the communist system, Hungarian football did not escape hooliganism either. Both sides’ ultras became primarily right-winged hooligans, and there were intense confrontations between the two sets of fans, although tensions have calmed over the past few years. While the rivalry remained, the respective clubs began to represent different things once again.
Ferencváros became a much more supported club nationally, whereas Újpest fans developed a strong affiliation to the 4th district of Budapest. Újpest supporters established an identity that was interwoven with their connection to the club and the Újpest district as a whole. From an Újpest perspective, the club began to represent a community to which supporters belonged to, and a sense of place-based pride was born.
This month, Budapest Honvéd underwent a change in ownership, meaning Újpest remains the only Hungarian club in the top flight not to be in the hands of officials and oligarchs close to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. As Ferencváros is starting to dominate the league thanks to their expensive acquisitions, will the roles reverse? Could Újpest grow into the club of the opposition? Only time will tell. While the Újpest-Ferencváros rivalry has been around for nearly a century, the very reasons why they are adversaries changed over the course of history.
In 2014, one of the biggest football youtube channels Copa90 did a mini-documentary on the Újpest-Ferencváros rivalry:
This month, we reported that FC Barcelona is set to establish a football academy in Hungary.
Featured images: https://www.facebook.com/%C3%9Ajpest-FC-777989009018242/ and https://www.facebook.com/fradi.hu/