Hungary’s fans created a deafening wall of noise as their team walked around the new Puskas Arena on Saturday to receive the applause after their gritty 1-1 draw against world champions France.
With more than 60,000 fans yelling for joy, it was impossible to hear anything else after the team claimed its first point in the competition.
“It’s been a long lull, but now we have this awesome stadium and this awesome, fighting team, and I just feel like I’m back in my youth again,” said Gyula Matyi, a 60 year-old amateur football player from Budapest at the match.
The only stadium to allow a full capacity crowd in during the Euro 2020 football championship, the Puskas Arena was completed in 2019 as a pet project of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a football fanatic who has often been criticised for spending on his favourite sport.
But politics was set aside on Saturday as the home fans went berserk when their team took the lead in the dying seconds of the first half, producing the kind of noise that pandemic-ravaged European football has missed for more than a year.
Although France equalised in the second half, the fans continued to fill the arena with chanting all the way until the final whistle, when they erupted as if Hungary had won the tournament.
The team then walked to the home goal and, with their hands on their hearts, sang the national anthem in a deafening chorus with the fans, which they also did after their late meltdown and 3-0 loss against Portugal on Tuesday.
“I was here for the first match too, and it was just as fantastic to cheer on the team,” said Matyi. “They lost then, although it was by a hair. But we knew they could pull this off too.”
“My father-in-law, he is 82, is down there behind the goal in the mosh pit supporting the team with his grandson. He told me ‘I don’t care what happens, this is once in a lifetime!’.”
At halftime, fans waiting in lines for beer sang and chanted “Ria-Ria-Hungaria!” and other old lines that used to support the country’s former greats like Ferenc Puskas and the Magic Magyars of the 1950s.
Marton Gyimesi, a 41 year-old mechanic, soaked up the scene with his 4-year-old daughter sitting on his shoulders.
“I want her to grow up in a country that gives her this on a regular basis,” he said. “I spent my youth envying the big football nations and listening to my father’s generation rave about football in their time. This gives me hope there may be decent football in Hungary soon, too.”