Polish-Hungarian sports relations have a long history, fostered by a common, historical border. As early as the end of the 19th century, Hungarian cyclists took part in cycling races organized on the Lviv racetrack. Sports relations turned into social ties, which became entrenched for many years to come. The beautiful route from Lviv through Marmos Sziget, along the valley of Stryj and Tisza to Budapest, although difficult to complete, left an indelible impression for a long time and strengthened the bonds of Polish-Hungarian friendship. Poles instilled in Hungarians a love for athletics. When in 1912, at the meeting in Budapest, the Lvivian Tadeusz Kuchar won the three-mile run while breaking the record in this discipline, Poles gained not only respect but also great sympathy. Every year, representatives of both countries visited each other, both at club and international levels. In 1914, the Lviv audience was enchanted by the famous Hungarian runner Dr. Ervin Szerelemhegyi. After winning the 400-metre run, Polish fans cheered loudly in his honour, a testament to admiration and sympathy. Strong cooperation flourished also in the field of mountaineering during joint expeditions to the Tatra Mountains. They worked together, organized trips and shared the necessary equipment. The best Polish and Hungarian mountaineers climbed together. The articles written by them later were translated into both languages and published in numerous weekly magazines on both sides of the Carpathians. Although there was rivalry between both nations, it was noble. If there was an unfortunate accident, Polish and Hungarian rescue organisations took part in helping the injured. After the death of the outstanding Hungarian mountaineer Jeno Wachter, Polish climbers took part in the unveiling of the memorial plaque in his honour. The cooperation ended only in 1918, when the two countries ceased to border each other and the beautiful corners of the Southern Tatras found themselves in a new state, Czechoslovakia.
Just as the Poles were teachers of athletics for Hungarians, so the Hungarians perfected the workshop of Polish football. The beginnings of Hungarian football date back to the end of the 19th century. By 1895, the football section of the Budapesti Torna Club was established there. In 1889 the Újpesti FC team was founded. In 1900 the football section of the Budapesti Torna Club located on the outskirts of Budapest was founded. In 1901, 14 clubs established the Hungarian Football Association in Budapest and started playing amateur league games. The Hungarian league, right after the Belgian, is the oldest on the continent. In Poland, the first football clubs were founded a few years later. First in Lviv (Czarni, Lechia and Pogoń), and then in the rest of Galicia (Cracovia and Wisła in Kraków, Polonia in Przemyśl, Resovia in Rzeszów).
Right from the outset, young and inexperienced Polish teams wanted to learn the game from the best. No wonder that the first professional foreign team that came to play in Poland was the once very popular Hungarian team, Kassai A. C. from Košice (after the end of World War I the Slovaks took over the club and changed its name). In autumn 1909, the Hungarians defeated the Lviv-based Pogoń 4:1 and drew 2:2 against Cracovia. A year later, Pogoń went to Košice for a rematch, and the town was decorated in white and red in honour of the Poles. To raise their game, Polish teams contracted Hungarian players to play. One of them, a player from the Lviv-based Bela Deutsch Pogoń scored the first goal with his head on Polish soil.
On 20 and 21 December 1919, thirty-one clubs founded the Polish Football Association. Finding the first rival for the newly formed national team was not an easy task. For political reasons, playing the Soviet Russia, the Czech Republic or Germany was not considered. For financial reasons it was not an option to go as far as Italy or France. The Hungarian Sports Association - Magyar Labdarúgó Szövetség – came to the rescue by inviting the red-and-white team to Budapest on 18 December 1921. This information was received by the Polish football community with heartfelt gratitude. The game against the Magyars was supposed to enable them to sail out into the broad, international sports waters. It was the first game for the Poles it and at the same time it was supposed to be the 80th appearance of the Hungarian national team. The day before the match, December 17, 1921, "Przegląd Sportowy" published the following message in Polish and Hungarian: "Greetings to the Hungarian sport. Polish sport is still a very young brother of Hungarian sport, rich in experience and victories. (...) We are happy to see that the first major appearance of Polish sport abroad is taking place on Hungarian soil; for we are convinced that it will be a new knot of an ancient friendship between both nations, a friendship that is more permanent and stronger than the transitional international agreements and diplomatic intricacies. The editorial team of "Przegląd Sportowy” believes that it has the right, on behalf of its readers and friends, to send a cordial greeting to Hungarian sport and to express the hope that the existing Hungarian-Polish sports relations will be multiplied and strengthened in the near future and that we will often host Hungarian friends at sports events in Poland.”
Polish and Hungarian teams
On Friday, December 16th, the best players from all over Poland set off from Kraków to Budapest by train. The whole expedition consisted of 21 people: players, coaches, activists and journalists. In Piotrowice, on the Polish-Czech border, customs officers wanted to confiscate the team’s fruit basket. Since the players threatened to eat all the supplies on the spot rather than give anything away, the Czechs withdrew their demands. At night, the expedition reached Zilina, where a four-hour stop was made. Their meal consisted of a schnitzel with mustard, a "bałabucha" (sponge cake) and apples. The food was washed down with tea, beer and soda water. After consumption, the amused company went out into the city, filling the empty streets with laughter. They ran around the bell tower, slipped and even organized a competition... beating their heads against the fence. In the morning, they continued on their way. In Trenčín the train, due to a wheel problem caused by frost, had an unplanned stop. As a result, the Poles came to Leopoldów late and missed their fast connection. The players waited for five hours on benches, on a table and on the ground for the next train. After further perplexities, the escapade ended on the eve of the competition at 11 pm.
17 December 1921 front page of “Przegląd Sportowy”
At the station, members of the Hungarian Football Association, headed by engineer Fischer, were awaiting the guests. After a very warm welcome everyone was put into specially ordered carriages and taken to the Astoria Hotel on Rákóczi Street. At 9 am, waiters brought breakfast to the players. They were all tiered, sleepy and moody, just like the sky that day. After lunch, they were driven to the pitch, 7 km away from the hotel. Due to the wintery weather, only a few thousand Hungarian fans were expected on the stands. The home supporters were known for their impulsive behaviour. In Poland, shouts and applause could only be heard when a goal was scored. Magyars not only celebrated goals, but also encouraged their favourites to play well. Even if an attack ended with the ball being taken away or a poor shot, they rewarded them with loud appreciation.
The Polish national team before their game with the Hungarians, Kraków, December 1921.
Punctually at 1:45 p.m. the Polish team came out onto the pitch, greeted with applause by almost ten thousand people. The pitch was slushy, wintry showers ceased just before kick-off. Fifteen minutes later, after taking team photos, the match began. It got off to a quick start. The Hungarians immediately gained the upper hand, while Poles played very nervously and without a plan. In the 18th minute, after a cross by Wiener, the left wing, Shabo took advantage of the confusion in front of the Polish goal to score the first and only goal for that day and put the Magyars in the lead. In the 22nd minute Kuchar is close to the goal and kicks the ball with all his might towards the net. The Hungarian goalie hit on the head loses consciousness, He comes about only after a while. Just before the break the referee dictated a penalty kick for the home team, which they did not convert. The guests played very poorly so far, completely outplayed by the higher ranked rivals. In the second half the red-and-white players did much better. They kept up with the pace imposed by the Hungarians and were more effective. Nevertheless, the home team still had the advantage, and the aura was favourable for them, as after the break the wind changed its direction, blowing fiercely into their rivals' faces. Despite a great effort, the Poles did not manage to equalise.
In the evening a post-match banquet took place in the Royal Hotel. Eng. Fischer and Dr. Cetnarowski, spoke on behalf of both football associations. In their speeches they emphasized the long tradition of Hungarian-Polish friendship. Commemorative pennants were then exchanged. A very cordial and friendly atmosphere accompanied the entire dinner.
Despite the defeat, the Polish national team was very successful and entered the ranks of the strongest European teams. The return match against Hungary was also the second official game of the red-and-white team. On May 14, 1922 in Kraków, once again, the Magyar players proved beyond the reach of the Poles and easily won 3:0. Only 17 years later, just before the outbreak of World War II, on August 27, 1939, for the first time the Poles came out triumphant in a fraternal tussle, winning 4:2.
PZPN pennant to commemorate the historic game – “Przegląd Sportowy”, 24 December 1921.
Michał Kawęcki, urodzony w 1987 roku. Politolog, założyciel i prezes Stowarzyszenia Sympatyków I. Lwowskiego Klubu Sportowego Czarni Lwów. Autor monografii najstarszego polskiego klubu piłkarskiego.