We didn’t get here overnight. It would be difficult to determine exactly when things turned.
In the years following the turn of the millennium, the Hungarian football players saw the national team as a kind of elite club club, which has nothing else to do but serve their fulfillment in exchange for a small compensation, help them to get the best possible contract. Accordingly, the managers also ensnared the national team, it happened that one or the other of them traveled together with the players and coaches as a member of the staff. Sándor Egervári took the courage and broke with this practice. It turned into an uproar, Huszti Szabolcs, one of the best Hungarian footballers of the era, was partly a victim of this bad environment, although he officially resigned from the national team in resentment. Temporarily, the other excellence of the time, Zoltán Gera, also turned his back on the team. Imagine that as soon as – so that we don’t always use Szoboszlai as an example – he sends a message, he is not expected to come home for a while, because he took the captain’s comments and criticism in stride. It’s unimaginable, isn’t it? It happened not so long ago.
Two contradictory players, adored and ostracized at the same time, and Ádám Szalai played a major role in the Hungarian national team becoming the nation’s team again. Dzudzák was the first to speak bravely and emotionally about the fact that the national team is the most important thing to him. In the beginning, we may have had a good reason to doubt his sincerity, but Dzúdzák said this so many times that over time, not only he, but also us began to believe that it was true. Ádám Szalai came out to the public about ten years ago, after the 8-1 in Amsterdam, saying that he had had enough of being fooled. He was right in terms of content and professionalism, but Szalai still lacked the inner depth that would have given his words credibility. His superior body language suggested arrogance, his thoughts were fueled by a kind of desire for revenge rather than responsible spiritual elevation.
However, Dzudzák and then Szalai were the two people who picked it up and raised the flag high. Two emotional motivational speeches bear witness to their impact and the team spirit created. Dzúdzák fired up his teammates before Norway, and Szalai five years later before the European qualifier against Iceland, the latter with such determination that even today I get chills just thinking about it.
In addition to his goals and the role of team captain, Ádám Szalai performed another very important task: Dominik Szoboszlai was able to experience firsthand what makes someone a leader in addition to his playing skills, and of course he took over the baton, the team captain’s armband, from him. After the match against Montenegro, which brought another glory, I tried to get Szoboszlai to tell me what that moment was, that experience that captivated him and impressed him that there is nothing more beautiful than fighting for the Hungarian national team, even the lead the team to victory.
Szoboszlai is perhaps already a child of a more fortunate age, free from previous convulsions and failures, as if he did not even understand the question, he simply answered: “It should be a basis to represent your own country, it is not a burden, but an honor.”
Just to briefly interpret the meaning and message of this sentence. Football is by far the most popular sport. Nowadays, putting all other activities in the background, we can experience national self-awareness through team sports, primarily through football. And the world-class player of the Hungarian national team is prouder of nothing than being the source of happiness for this community. Despite the fact that, with the exception of the national team matches, since the age of fifteen, he prefers to go home only to visit and relax.
Where did this man come from? Where, from whom, why did we receive it as a gift?
Anyway, let’s be happy that he is here with us, and we hope that he will be here for at least ten years. He himself wants more than that. “I can promise one thing on behalf of the team: this is just the beginning. Next summer, we will do something that will be unforgettable”, he thanked the fans for their support with these words.
Little by little, even middle-aged people who have been socialized by failure believe that what we see is not a one-time miracle, but an integral stage of a new era.