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Budapest, Day 3: Liverpool Wins in One Sports Bar

September 13th, 2017 · No Comments · Arsenal, Budapest, Champions League, English Premier League, Football, soccer, tourism, Travel

I get it. Some might consider it silly, ridiculous even, to be headed for a sports bar on a Wednesday night while visiting an exotic capital city.

But keep in mind that 1) the sports bar is about 50 yards away from where we are staying; 2) the bar serves food as well as beer and 3) the place has three big TVs and the European Champions League had eight games kicking off at 8:45 tonight.

Doesn’t that allow for some skimping on the cultural and artistic and gastronomic fronts?

Maybe that should go unanswered. But I did learn something interesting.

At this time and place, a Wednesday night in Budapest, September 2017, the English club Liverpool is the runaway choice for TV exposure from the eight matches on tap.

Did not see that coming.

When we arrived, one of the barkeeps approached me and said, in fluent English, “What game would you like to see?”

I thought I would be able to pick from a couple of English Premier League teams, given how popular the league is in many places of the world, including the States.

So which game? I said: “Tottenham!”

The bartender said, “Not on. Try again.”

“Manchester City?”

“No. This is what we have.

“Over there, Leipzig and Monaco. Over there, Real Madrid and Apoel. And in that room, Liverpool.”

I looked at the Liverpool room, and it already was crowded. Not a big room, but what space was in there … was taken. So I headed off in the other direction, in view of Leipzig v Monaco and Madrid v Apoel.

The decision was not only about space. Liverpool fans creep me out.

Their attachment to their club is almost religious, almost irrational, even in a sport with lots of irrational attachments. I worked among English soccer fans for six-plus years in Abu Dhabi, and none seemed as loony, as paranoid or as entitled. I had no opinion about Liverpool FC, really, till I met its fans.

The club won the Champions League in 2005, which is a huge accomplishment, but not much since then, aside from a 2006 FA Cup.

Also, Liverpool has not won a league championship since 1990, which is a good long time ago now, predating as it does many Liverpool fans’ time on this mortal coil.

And, to cap it off, before kickoff they sing that horrible, horrible mess of a song that vaguely resembles “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical “Carousel”. Watching and listening to that is enough to put you off your goulash … enough to put you off Liverpool FC, certainly.

Just after kickoff in Leipzig, which matched an interesting German team with Monaco, which just won the French league … five people came in late to the bar. Three were a father and mother and adult daughter; they all wanted to see Liverpool; two were older guys, locals to Hungary, it seemed, and they wanted to see Liverpool.

So the Leipzig game suddenly morphed into Liverpool v Seville and by my count something like 20 people in the bar were there to see Liverpool and maybe five were watching Real Madrid and the other six matches were nowhere at all.

This seems a bit nutty, but Liverpool is something like a cult; once you get in, it’s hard to get out. Besides which, your club is about to do something very special any minute now — unless the Reds get cheated or something, which often happens.

“Just wait and see!”

The theory among football analysts seems to be that Liverpool retains a significant number of fans because it dominated English football up till about 1990, and foreigners remember seeing them on the rare “football on the telly” moments, and attached themselves to the team.

To them, it is not unusual that most everyone in the middle of Hungary’s capital should want to see Liverpool play. And so we did.

Thankfully, it was an interesting game, with Liverpool scoring two fine goals and conceding two wretched ones, with the match ending 2-2, which was not what Liverpool had hoped for, playing at home. Even with five group-stage games to play, they are behind the eight ball when it comes to topping the group, when it comes to Seville, a good team, who gets Liverpool in Spain next time.

We also managed to make it a vaguely useful cultural moment by ordering the “three-part Hungarian menu”, which included goulash soup, chicken paprikash and jam-filled crepes with chocolate sauce.

And, two pints of beer; that’s not as local-local as beer in the Czech Republic, because Hungary is proud of its local wine, but Hungary also is not some beer-free zone. Nowhere in central Europe is.

Tomorrow, perhaps we can turn a trip for Mexican food into another Budapest moment. Maybe they will have Arsenal on TV in the Europa League.


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