Initially my article was published on https://conifaireland.wordpress.com/ but I made some minor changes to it and added some more details. Enjoy!
Székelyland football team is the team representing the Székelys (ethnic Hungarian minority) of Székelyland, Romania. Székelyland is a historic and ethnographic area in Romania, inhabited mainly by the Székelys, a subgroup of Hungarian people from eastern Transylvania.
The Székelyföld Labdarúgó Egyesület (Székelyland FA) was founded in 2014 by Dr. Kristóf Wenczel, a Hungarian sports lawyer who heard about the CONIFA – Confederation of Independent Football Associations – movement and thought that this initiative would fit perfectly for the detached regions of the historical Hungary (Székelyföld part of Transylvania/Romania, Felvidék part of Slovakia, Délvidék part of Serbia, Kártátalja part of Ukraine). The initial plan to organise the Székely team was a true success so the other regions managed to affiliate to CONIFA, too.
Székelyföld FA has players mainly from the 1st (Sepsi OSK), 2nd (FK Csíkszereda) tier of Romanian football, but throughout the years players from the 3rd (Székelyudvarhelyi FC, KSE) tier also represented the national team, especially when the others were not available. Very important to mention that we also have players in the Hungarian top flight and second division as well. The assistant coach of Sepsi OSK and the main coach of the Székely team, is Róbert Ilyés (5 caps) who played 365 times in the Romanian 1st division, won the championship and cup as well, moreover played in Champions League, too. Other important players from FK Csíkszereda: Barna Bajkó (top scorer of CONIFA Euro ’17 with 4 goals, 13 caps 10 goals), Attila Csürös (11/3), László Hodgyai (on loan at Székelyudvarhelyi FC, 11/6) etc. Other two teams who regularly delegate players to the Székely side from the 3rd division is Székelyudvarhelyi FC (Szilárd Mitra 4/0, Barna Vékás 11/7 etc.) and KSE Kézdivásárhely (recently retired player/coach József Gazda 17/1). We have Sepsi OSK in the Romanian 1st division with plenty of important Székely players like István Fülöp 4/1, his brother Lóránd Fülöp 3/1, Roland Niczuly 4/0, Balázs Csiszer 11/0. Attila Hadnagy is the legend from that part of Székelyland called Háromszék, he retired 2 years ago, he is currently the chairman of the club – he has more than 200 games in Liga I and around 40 goals (166/92 in the second division).
Our usual team captain is Csaba Csizmadia (12 caps for Hungary, 11 for Székelyland) who retired from professional football a year ago, after a serious injury but he was quickly named head-coach of his team Budafoki MTE. They just recently won promotion to the top flight, finishing second int he 2nd division. Csizi still plays for the Budafok old boys to keep himself fit, at 34 we still need him in our team. There are plenty of players in Hungary as well who were and can be part of the Székely team: for example Nándor Tamás from Puskás; Arthur Györgyi (11/1) Nyíregyháza; Norbert Benkő-Bíró (17/1) and Szabolcs Kis (14/0) Füzesgyarmat; Botond Kovács (5/1) Cegléd VSE.
At the very beginning, when not all the club were willing to let their players to the national side, we capped some futsal players, too. Even nowadays we have the likes of László Szőcs , Szabolcs Mánya, Attila Bíró, Lóránd Szőcs (our most capped player together with Árpád Rózsa with 19 matches) who all started football on normal pitch but due to their technical skills they were enrolled into futsal.
Regarding tournaments: in 2015 Isle of Man was to organise the European Championship, but in the last moment they withdrew, so Székelyland stepped in and organised the whole tournament in Debrecen, Hungary. We were at the very beginning of our CONIFA journey, plenty of players were not eligible due to end-of-season play-offs and such, so we finished 8th. In 2016 we took part in the World Footbal Cup in Abkhazia, again the group stage meant the end but we finished on a high during the replacement rounds, finishing 9th. In the same year we organised the first Hungarian Heritage Cup (Magyar Örökség Kupa) with the participation of the already mentioned teams: Délvidék, Felvidék and Kárpátalja. We lost to Délvidék in the semi-final and then drew the game for the 3rd place against Kárpátalja but in the end lost on penalties…
For Euro ’17 we managed to bring in one of the best selection so far and we won the bronze medal beating the then WFC winners Abkhazia 3-1. Finally all the clubs got behind the team. With minor changes we had mainly the same team for WFC ’18 where we entered the semi-finals again, losing to Padania on penalties, finishing 4th. Barna Bajkó hit a hattrick in London, too as he did during Euro ’17 in Northern-Cyprus.
Last year (’19) in Artsakh we had only three starters from the main team, 11 debutants and we basically knew that we won’t be able to match the results from the last two tournaments… Such experiences are also part of the game. Building the community and fellowship is sometimes more important then the result on the pitch!
People always ask do we have any team meet-ups like other national teams during FIFA dates. Well the answer is no: it is quite hard to organise meet-ups because players come from 3-4 teams, plenty of them playing in Hungary as mentioned. It’s important that the core of the team plays together in those 2-3 teams and usually club sides, involving plenty of székely national team players play against each other. We usually get together 2-3 weeks prior to a tournament and start preparations. We did not play (official) friendlies since 2015. Before COVID 19 we had plans to organise a tournament on home soil, but this virus epidemy – as per now – ruined our chances. Anyway all is not lost that is delayed.
Áron Szabó – Székelyland FA technical director