District X was usually our destination. Occasionally, we'd take a detour to visit others or perhaps to do some shopping, but the main goal was always District X, across the river, on the far side of the city as we approached it.
We'd pick a bridge, usually the most boring one. Sometimes, we'd take the one with the ornate green pillars decorated by the mythical birds of divine intervention. Some say they're just big falcons; they aren't heard from ever again. The old gods know no mercy.
The tiny car with the two-stroke engine that would not look out of place in a modern day lawnmower would trundle across the dirty, lazy river and we'd lament just how dirty and lazy it truly was. Dodging crazy taxis, ominous trams, and giant buses, we couldn't gawk for too long.
Soon, we'd reach the intersection and turn right. There was a time in my life when I couldn't quite comprehend the existence of six-lane roads. This was that time. Every time was that time.
The majestic avenue stretched straight off into the horizon, surrounded by those typical 4-5-storey buildings with retail on the ground floor and several layers of living space above and hundreds of years' worth of dust, dirt, and pollution caked onto the outside.
Three narrow lanes in each direction, no median; giant trucks with our roof barely reaching the tops of their tires; articulated buses not giving a single damn about other cars; gridlock drag races to the next light; it was never-ending madness. Or just about two miles. To us non-big city folk, it felt like two hundred.
Taking the express overpass just before a left turn onto quieter residential but one of the worst, most pot-holed roads in all of history, we'd pass a majestic structure on the right, four towers reaching high into the sky as if it were the world's biggest dog waiting for a belly rub. You could just barely make out the tops of the green and white stands. It was my probably my favorite moment of the two-hour drive.
That stadium, freshly and boringly rebuilt as an arena and rechristened after corporate interests rather than one of Hungary's greatest ever players is where Chelsea will play on Sunday night. It figures that the one time Chelsea decide to visit Hungary in the summer is the year that I had no plans of going there myself.
Date / Time: Sunday, August 10, 2014;
18:45 BST; 1:45pm EDT; 11:15pm IST exact time unclear: Hungarian sources say the festivities begin at 19:00 CEST (18:00 BST), so it all depends on how long those take. English sources are going with a 19:45 BST / 2:45pm EDT kick-off.
Venue: Groupama Arena, Budapest, Hungary
Forecast: A typical mid-summer night's eve.
On TV: Chelsea TV (UK); beIN Sports (USA); Sport 1 (HUN); elsewhere
Online: Chelsea TV (not available in Hungary); bein Sports Connect / Dishworld (USA)
Ferencváros Team News: Opening night (complete with mementos for fans) at the new arena for Hungary's biggest, if recently not exactly most successful club, will be quite the occasion no doubt. The preseason friendly football on display will be secondary, though the hosts will surely relish the opportunity to take a famous scalp. Hungary vs. England resonates quite well even to this day (if there are a group of peoples who are more hung up on the past than Liverpool fans, it's Hungarians).
FTC finished third in the NB 1 last season but have sold their biggest star, 21-year-old Bosnian World Cup participant Muhamed Besic to Everton. They started the new league season off with a win, but then succumbed to a rather lackluster 1-0 defeat last weekend at one of the division's worst teams. Previously, they managed to already fall out of the Europa League in the second qualifying round.
Former East Germany star Thomas Doll is the current manager. The one name in the squad who is most likely to ring a bell is 35-year-old Zoltán Gera, who's returned home after a decade in the Premier League.
Chelsea Team News: Having played just two days ago and with another friendly on Tuesday -- all in a bid to get as many games in for the later World Cup returnees before the season as possible -- Mourinho's likely to rotate a bit from the strong lineups we saw in Turkey. The one slight concern was the knock picked up by Thibaut Courtois on Friday; hopefully that has already cleared up.
Previously: Chelsea have never played a competitive match against Hungarian opposition.
I'm not sure about preseason or other friendlies or even visits to the country, but it could very well be the first time for both. Turns out that the two teams faced each other in a post-season friendly in 1906. Here's a match report in Hungarian. Chelsea have also faced MTK (i.e. Vörös Lobogó) a couple times, visiting in 1963 and hosting in 1954, with the previous year's 6-3 (and the 7-1 rematch) still fresh in collective memories: