"Budapesti Torna-Club"
"Budapesti Torna-Club"

“Burning Palaces” – The War of MTK and Fradi during the World War, II.

It is a sad reality that these two leading associations of Hungarian football face each other in opposition as fierce enemies today. Flames of hatred shoot high and threaten the entire building of football with destruction” – wrote the Budapesti Hírlap in January 1917. The rivalry of MTK and FTC raised Hungarian football, but but after less than a decade it seemed to burn it down. Stadium battle, the century’s transfer scandal and the hostile citizen interned upon the outbreak of the world war, Jimmy Hogan, who taught the Hungarians to play football. Second part.

In the first part, we had a look at why and how two teams – MTK (Magyar Testgyakorlók Köre) and FTC (Ferencvárosi Torna Club), playing fixtures even today – emerged very early from the Hungarian football championship – organized since 1901 with varied headcount, and being amateur on paper until 1926 – so much that they did not let any other clubs near the champion’s title until the end of the 1920s. However, owing to their fierce rivalry, turmoil escalated so much that in January 1917 the Budapesti Hírlap published a long article on the crisis of Hungarian football, where the war of the two teams was accused of threatening to destroy the only two decades old building of Hungarian football, „built by the sports love of altruistic sportsmen, the unprecedented support from the capital’s press and the idealism-led enthusiasm of the public”.

Of course, the reason for the outbreak of hostility was money. Football soon became a profitable business, the year before the outbreak of war, Sport-Világ already expressed their view that in Budapest „there are two good businesses: cinema and football”. The highest revenue came from matches of national teams and the matches of foreign club teams organized in Hungary. Though our country was still lagging behind England at that time – at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, the Hungarian team lost to 0-7 against the English team –, Hungary was a football middle power, where foreign teams were happy to play. (Thanks to the rise of the Hungarian football, after 1919, Hungarian teams went abroad to teach Jimmy Hogan’s “Danubian School”.) Since the decision on the location of national team matches was made by the council of the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ, Magyar Labdarúgó Szövetség), from the 1910s, club coalitions (“parties”) fought at the general meetings of the federation in order to bring as many representatives as possible to the elected council, and thereby make a decision favourable for them. The Hungarian national team played their matches for a long time on the temporary velodrome “Millenáris Sportpálya”, however, Hungarian football outgrew it by the 1910s. The opposition of MTK and FTC first deepened when, by 1912, both teams had stadiums that were considered unprecedently large in Europe.

However surprising it might be, until then, MTK and FTC formed one part, e.g. at the time of the first Hungarian transfer scandal, the Bodnár-case (the attacking player of the national team, Sándor Bodnár did not feel well at the lime-burner company where his club found a job for him, therefore Magyar Athlétikai Club attracted him with an office job offer). The ceremonial handover of the ground at Üllői út – followed by the publication of the writings from sports news journalists concerned about the “amateurism” – created a new situation. Having their own modern stadium was a tremendous advantage to FTC – after 1911 October, the Hungarian national team did not even play at Millenáris –, therefore MTK wanted their own ground as well. They searched for a site suitable for construction near the ground at Üllői út, and MTK’s arena at Hungária körút was already standing in 1912. Both teams got the site free of charge, and public companies were formed for the construction of stadiums, promising good investment. The Hungarian state did not take a stronger role in Hungarian football until the 1930s.

Upon the construction of the two stadiums, the “ground fight” broke out on which team should organize the highest-earning matches. The opposition caught the attention of the sports press immediately. Sporthírlap wrote the following in May 1912 in its article entitled “Hungária út contra Üllői út”: “Since the rivalry between the FTC and MTK ground has begun, it seems as if the sport itself played only a secondary role, as if it became less relevant. (…) Poor Hungarian sport can witness the unfortunate happenings sobbing. Wandering as an orphan and homeless: having two palaces, but what it is worth if their roofs are burning.”

However, the two teams, accused of being greedy, eventually reached an agreement: public companies building the stadiums found the solution in cartelling, and in February 1913, they shared the national matches among each other in a ten-year contract.

In 1914, though, rivalry started again, after TTC (Terézvárosi Torna Club) was admitted to the first class by MLSZ instead of the second class-winner MAFC (Műegyetemi Atlétikai és Football Club). MTK supported MAFC, but FTC was not willing to play with associations supporting MAFC. The war that broke out in the meantime confused the situation even more; 10-10 players were enlisted both from MTK and FTC. The championship was postponed, and was replaced with the fight for the Auguszta Cup, where members of the party led by MTK were not allowed to participate. These teams established their own mini league and played for the Hungária Cup in 1914/15. Eventually MTK and FTC reached a compromise again, and instead of MLSZ, the teams organized the upcoming non-official matches – the League Championship in the spring of 1915, the Military Championship in the autumn of 1915 and the Military Cup in the spring 1916 – together.

Peace did not last long this time either: the end of 1915 saw the outbreak of the most famous transfer scandals in the history of Hungarian football: the first “super star” of the country’s football, the national team’s attacking player, Imre Schlosser, the celebrated “Slózi” – even a street was named after him in Ferencváros –, who played in FTC for his entire life, asked for a transfer to MTK.

Schlosser’s official reason was him being offended since he did not receive honorary ticket for the Hungarian-Austrian match in November 1915, but FTC claimed that the rival club bought the star. However, the relevant source is the FTC history series published in 1943-44 by Jenő Árpádfy. The story – returning from the joint guest performance of MTK and FTC in Vienna in 1915, Alfréd Brüll MTK president gifted Schlosser a silver swagger stick to attract the star – fit well into the “spirit” during the second world war – upon the publication of the article series, MTK, hit by Jewish Laws, was forced to dissolve.

Mihály Malaky FTC head accused the blue-white leadership with bribery, and the green-whites announced that they would not take the field against MTK. An author of Budapesti Hírlap doubted the truth of the accusation: “Accusations against Schlosser are known by everyone interested in football and there are only a few who believe that Schlosser was baught by MTK. It was FTC’s football administrator who always issued the best certificate on Schlosser and told about Schlosser several times that he was amateur even among amateurs. Such an amateur who only accepts a cup of coffee from the association even when his fellow players are offered champagne.”

According to the rules, Schlosser could have taken the field in the new team only after a half-year break, therefore FTC hoped that the player would return, therefore Ferencváros drew brack from the boycott and took part in the Military Cup in Spring 1916. However, Schlosser did not change his mind.

In 1916 September, the Hungarian Championship, reviving after 1914, started with an “Örökrangadó” right away: the bow-legged Schlosser scored three goals, and MTK won 4-1 against FTC in front of the audience, which was decreased in number owing to the war (“only” nine thousand people watched the match). If you saw the rage evoked by Luis Figo’s transfer from the Barcelona to the Real Madrid in 2000 – even a pig head was thrown toward him when he first returned to Camp Nou –, you can imagine the reactions at that time.

FTC accused MTK with “professionalism”, and the disciplinary board of MLSZ started an investigation against the blue-whites in December 1916. This time, however, the bomb exploded in Fradi: János Weinber FTC-player published an open letter addressed to „Imrus Schlosser” in Sporthírlap, where he accused his own team with professionalism, and called the head of FTC, Mihály Malaky a dictator: “Your problem is not being a professional, but that you joined MTK. This is what Mihály Malaky cannot stand, that’s why he fights against you with fire and sword.”

After Weinber’s open letter, Budapesti Hírlap already wrote about the Hungarian football’s weltering in the mud. The newspaper primarily accused Mihály Malaky of being responsible, who “from that moment, when he felt that MTK would inexorably overtake FTC, devoted all his ability to break his opponent by any means and thereby free FTC from the perilous competitor.”

After Schlosser, Weinber also left FTC and transferred to MTK, followed by another twist: it turned out that the ominous open letter was aimed at misleading MTK. “Renegade” Weinber soon reported that he had asked and received 542 crowns for the exhumation of his deceased brother from Alfréd Brüll MTK president. This appeared to justify the accusation of “professionalism”, but at the same time it seemed that Hungarian football could not sink deeper. “By promoting football“, the capital’s upstanding citizens “cherished a snake in their bosom” – wrote Budapesti Hírlap about the feelings of football fans in January 1917.

In 1917 February, MTK took over the power in MLSZ. The FTC party boycotted the extraordinary federal assembly initiated by the blue-whites, and the green-whites did not take the field against MTK on the spring championship match as well. The 1916/1917 championship was won by MTK, coached by Jimmy Hogan, with a huge victory (winning all but one matches), the top scorer was Imre Schlosser with 38 scores in 22 matches.

The rage did not decrease in the FTC leadership, and in spite of the projected severe sanctions, the team did not take the field against MTK in the autumn of 1917 either. As a result, FTC was excluded from the championship, but owing to the players’ protest, the decision was revoked, and they could play their matches. Despite this, MTK won the 1817/1918 championship with a huge victory, scoring 147 in 22 matches (the second placed FTC got only 42 scores) – besides Schlosser, thanks to the young genius, György Orth. The rule of blue-whites has become unquestionable: no other team got the champion’s title until 1925. Imre Schlosser played in MTK until his temporary retreat in 1922, he first became a coach, then went abroad as a player-coach and eventually returned home in 1926 – to play in FTC.

The MTK and FTC made peace in the spring of 1918 and closed their fight during the world war. Leaders recognized that cartelling is more profitable for both teams than hostility.

 

References:

A FTC és az MTK – A labdarúgás válsága = Budapesti Hírlap, 1917. január 21.

Szegedi Péter: Az első aranykor. A magyar foci 1945-ig. Budapest, 2016.

 

Written by: Csunderlik Péter