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Pancho Arena inaugurated in Felcsút

Pancho Arena, that football stadium which continues to gather intermittent international media attention as a symbol of Minister Viktor Orbán’s dictatorial power, was inaugurated in the PM’s hometown of Felcsút yesterday.

Named for all-time soccer great Ferenc Puskas – “Pancho” was the striker’s nickname when he played for Real Madrid in the 1960s – the football stadium can seat up to 4,000 spectators, over twice the number of actual citizens in Felcsút (pop. approximately 1,800) and multiple times the number of fans typically attending a match hosted by the hometown club Puskas Football Academy.

Of course, this can be justified in part by noting as did national news service MTI in its coverage that the stadium’s seating capacity meets UEFA-2 classification standards, making the venue “suitable to host play-off rounds and matches between national teams.”

Costs on construction of the stadium ran to €12.4 million since erection began in 2012 and Felcsút mayor Lőrinc Mészáros will be operating the new stadium. Among the business interests funded the stadium were OTP, MOL and Közgép. Such companies with ties to Orbán are evidence of what a New York Times report of April likens to dictatorial control and the stadium itself “a symbol of power.” As the town’s former mayor remarked in the story, “In the Communist times, it didn’t matter if you knew your trade or if you were qualified to do a job, but if you were a loyal comrade, you got the job anyway. Today, it’s the same. You just don’t have to be a good comrade, but a good friend.”

At the inauguration, of which Yahoo News reports today, opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) party member Bendegúz Szarvas Koppány echoed the sentiment with “Pancho Arena is a monument to corruption and megalomania,” a line the left-wing rather oddly did not push during the campaign season.

Actually attending the ceremony were former teammates of Puskas’s from his playing days with Hungary’s legendary “Golden Team” (Jenő Buzánszky, Gyula Grosics), Real Madrid (Amancio Amaro, José “Piri” Martinez Sanchez) and of course the Prime Minister/Pancho Arena neighbor Viktor Orbán himself.

“We hope that our young people can draw strength from it, by seeing that a country boy can become a celebrated star,” Orbán said, certainly referring to Puskas.