Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Century-old game of button football a cult sport for Hungarians

Century-old game of button football a cult sport for Hungarians

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A button player of Hungarian-Spanish football legend Ferenc Puskas (centre-right) is seen among buttons of players of his former Hungarian team ‘Budapest Honved’ on November 19. AFP

Century-old game of button football a cult sport for Hungarians

Flicking a coin-shaped disc around a table-top, Hungarians still adore the simple sport of button football, a game they invented a century ago.

“It’s a traditional national sport, like petanque to the French or baseball to the Americans,” Attila Becz, who runs a museum dedicated to the game, said.

The game is played on a large polished-smooth table depicting a soccer pitch with both players controlling a team of discs with a combination of strategy and dexterity.

Players are round and are moved by pressing a pick, finger, or comb on its edge, one turn at a time.

In the 1960s and ‘70s before the spread of computer games 65-year-old Becz played the game as a child and began collecting the button players from the age of eight.

“In summertime we played football on the streets and in empty lots, then in wintertime button football indoors, there wasn’t much else to do for a football-mad kid,” he said.

Decades later he opened what he calls “the world’s only” button football museum in Szigetszentmiklos close to Budapest.

Rows of cabinets in the small hall display memorabilia including antique buttons from the 1920s and sets of plastic ones bearing the images of modern-day stars.

Photographs on the walls show legendary players like Pele and Ferenc Puskas crouched over button football tables, testament to the game’s popularity through the decades.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Button football players of the ‘Tens’ Championships’ (the first 10 players on the ranking list) and players of the ‘Palace Cup’ play in the Csokonai cultural centre of Budapest, Hungary, on November 27. AFP

“Foreign coaches introduced football to Hungary, then Hungarians took the wooden tactics board used for showing football tactics and made a game out of it a century ago,” said Becz.

“Back then there were different rules and they used real coat buttons that could slide across a table,” said Becz while handling an antique shiny button from the 1920s.

Buttons were first mass-produced in the 1940s, with player photos stuck on from the 1950s.

“It was a golden age for both button football and Hungary, led by Puskas, were at the peak of world football then,” said Becz.

Although typically played by pensioners, button football retains a cult status among younger generations with about a thousand players in Hungary registered in over 30 clubs according to the game’s governing body.

At a tournament last month in a Budapest community hall a competitor Edvard Katona, 28, said its appeal lies in its simplicity compared to rival video football games.

“It’s like an analogue version of the FIFA console game for us,” he said.

Button football is also popular in Brazil where it has a similarly long tradition although played there with different rules.


  • Joy as Koh Ker Temple registered by UNESCO

    Cambodia's Koh Ker Temple archaeological site has been officially added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on September 17. The ancient temple, also known as Lingapura or Chok Gargyar, is located in

  • Famed US collector family return artefacts to Cambodia

    In the latest repatriation of ancient artefacts from the US, a total of 33 pieces of Khmer cultural heritage will soon return home, according to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. In a September 12 press statement, it said the US Attorney’s Office for the

  • Cambodia set to celebrate Koh Ker UNESCO listing

    To celebrate the inscription of the Koh Ker archaeological site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the Ministry of Cults and Religion has appealed to pagodas and places of worship to celebrate the achievement by ringing bells, shaking rattles and banging gongs on September 20. Venerable

  • Kampot curfew imposed to curb ‘gang’ violence

    Kampot provincial police have announced measures to contain a recent spike in antisocial behaviour by “unruly’ youth. Officials say the province has been plagued by recent violence among so-called “gang members”, who often fight with weapons such as knives and machetes. Several social observers have

  • PM outlines plans to discuss trade, policy during US visit

    Prime Minister Hun Manet is set to meet with senior US officials and business leaders during his upcoming visit to the US for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled for September 20. While addressing nearly 20,000 workers in Kampong Speu province, Manet said he aims to affirm

  • Manet touches down in Beijing for high-level meetings

    Prime Minister Hun Manet arrived in Beijing on September 14 for his first official visit to China, where he is slated to attend the 20th China-ASEAN Expo and meet other leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping. Upon his arrival, Manet laid a wreath at the Monument