Viktor Orbán’s reckless football obsession

The Hungarian prime minister has been lavishing public money on his favourite sport for years. Could it be his undoing? By David Goldblatt and Daniel Nolan

With one main street and a couple of grocery shops, Felcsút looks like any other sleepy Hungarian village. That is until you catch sight of the football stadium, which dwarfs the other buildings in this town of 1,800 people, about 25 miles west of Budapest. The Pancho Arena, completed in 2014, is surely among the world’s most striking football grounds, more cathedral than stadium, with a swooping shingled roof, copper turrets and ornate wooden vaults thrusting upward around the interior.

Bearing the nickname that Real Madrid fans gave to Hungary’s greatest footballer, the striker Ferenc Puskás, in the 1950s, the Pancho Arena is home to a club also named in his honour, Puskás Akadémia FC, which was founded in 2007, and was recently promoted into the Hungarian first division. The stadium has a capacity of 3,800, more than twice the size of the town. But much as Puskás himself had little connection to Felcsút – he began his club career in Budapest, and never set foot in the small town – the stadium isn’t really here for the locals.

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