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Beyond the borders of Europe

The Puskás Suzuki Cup has been ranked among the most prestigious footballing events of the continent, but with extending the number of participants from six to eight including world-famous Brazilian Flamengo we have reached a new level – Mihály Takács claims. In our interview the general director also told us how the high standard of organization and the tournament had helped overwrite preconceptions.

‘Each club must have an event where they can show themselves and the work they do. It was at the very beginning when the idea was put forward, but even then we knew that although our youth teams exclusively played against teams from beyond our borders we needed an opportunity where we can measure ourselves against top foreign and local clubs,’ the general director tells about the inception of the tournament. ‘Obviously, our goal was to get a comprehensive picture of the mistakes to be corrected and explore areas to develop as well as fit the experience we gain into our system. Moreover, we can also claim that the Puskás Suzuki Cup has become an important element of the brand-building activities of Puskás Academy.’

Last year’s ‘rookies’ were Bayern Munich and Sporting CP, what feedback did we get from them?

We have been working tirelessly for ten years and now we can claim that both the Puskás Suzuki Cup and the academy have become renowned throughout the world. Relations with Sporting and Bayern have been transformed into cooperation. From the Bavarians’ side it was vice-president Jan-Christian Dreesen who contacted me for information about we how we had built up our system, how the different functions had been sectioned and how processes are built upon one another. Sporting president Bruno de Carvalho also visited us. That is how the Germans and the Portuguese came into the picture and in the end they both gave us very positive feedback. It is very important to emphasise because they had had their doubts, but the organization, the quality and the running of the tournament overwrote these and they were looking forward to being invited again.

Unlike in 2016, KRC Genk did not participate last year, but they have returned, too…

The man behind the Genk connection is our ex-player and current leader of the foreign relations section of Puskás Academy, Balázs Tóth, who played for the Belgians between 2007 and 2011. Just like with Bayern Sporting we cooperate with them; our coaches and players regularly visit them and vice versa. Balázs’s integrity guaranteed the integrity of our club and we received some positive feedback from them as well.

If last year’s tournament justly claimed to have the strongest field of all times, we have ‘upped the bet’ with eight teams this year. There will be a newcomer, and not of the least prestigious kind.

Yes, Flamengo are coming to the cup too, which means now we are known in South America as well. We must thank the connection to our founder, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, as during his visit to the Olympic Games in Rio he met the representatives of Flamengo, one of the clubs of the greatest tradition. During the conversation he mentioned he had founded an academy in Hungary. The club contacted us through the Hungarian embassy in Brazil and I invited them to come and visit us. We also made a comprehensive presentation of what we do here, our plans and how we integrate international patterns and experience into our daily operation. Vice-president of Flamengo, Mauricio Robert Gomes de Mattos came to visit us during last year’s tournament, where, together with the Prime Minister I invited the team to this year’s cup, which they accepted. This means we have gone beyond the borders of Europe, the tournament has become a world event. So, apart from football, this year we will experience a ‘clash of cultures’.

In Flamengo we will host a really exotic team as the red-blacks are the first South American participants in the history of the Puskás Suzuki Cup.

Although it is true we have not had a South American team here, their culture is not unknown to us as head scout Bence Papp has visited the subcontinent with sports director András Komjáti. Thus our experience is personal, we know much more about the South American milieu than those who gain information from newsreels and press reports. Although plenty of information is available on the internet, we are very curious how their 17-year-olds will fare against their European peers knowing that Flamengo has a fan base of 40 million in their homeland.

What are the novelties of this year’s Puskás Suzuki Cup and what are the areas to be developed?

The everyday operation of our academy is infiltrated by the need for development, and the Puskás Suzuki Cup is no exception to that. Hardly have we finished the tournament when we start organising the next one; about a month after the cup we analyse it – we listen to every section having taken part in the organization and running of the event and try to find ways to develop. These are sometimes nuances, but there are always small areas that need both in organisation and operation, not to speak of the implementation of new ideas. This year, for instance, the eight-team tournament will be held in the same four-day time frame as in the six-team system. The matches start at 12.30 on Thursday and, similarly to many events of this kind, the opening ceremony is held after them. As there are more teams, we will have more tasks and we will need more staff, but we will not disappoint anyone.

 
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