Hungary's Orban opens supersize home village football stadium

Football-mad Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will not have far to go to catch a game in luxurious surroundings after a new stadium, slammed by critics as an unnecessary extravagance, was inaugurated in his home village Monday. From a plush VIP box, Orban watched the opening ceremony of the 3,500-seat Pancho Arena next to his home in Felcsut, a village of 1,750 some 45 kilometres (30 miles) west of Budapest. Named after celebrated Hungarian footballer Ferenc "Pancho" Puskas, who died in 2006, the stadium will be the permanent home of Puskas Academy FC, who play in Hungary's top division. The 13 million euro ($18 million) bill was partly footed by the state and partly by companies with close ties to Orban's governing right-wing Fidesz party. The 50-year-old premier has granted millions of euros to football clubs to improve stadiums or build new ones since coming to power in 2010. However, only a few hundred fans per week attend Puskas Academy FC games, leading to criticism of the stadium as unnecessary, especially at a time when Hungary's economy struggles to recover from a recession in 2012. "Pancho Arena is a monument to corruption and megalomania," opposition politician Szarvas Koppany Bendeguz told journalists outside the stadium. Former teammates of Puskas who attended the opening ceremony Monday included 88-year-old Jeno Buzanszky and Gyula Grosics, also 88, from the famous Hungarian team of the 1950s, as well as Amancio Amaro, 74, and Jose Martinez Sanchez "Pirri", 69, of the 1960s Real Madrid team. Before the opening ceremony Orban, who was re-elected for a second consecutive term as prime minister earlier in April, unveiled a bronze statue of Puskas outside the ground. "We hope that our young people can draw strength from it," he said, "by seeing that a country boy (like Puskas) can become a celebrated star".

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