Puskas - the unforgettable Hungarian
He was - and still is - probably the best-known Hungarian in the world. The legendary footballer Ferenc Puskás has died at the age of 79. Sándor Laczkó of Radio Budapest looks at the career of the world-renowned splayer and coach - an extraordinary person both on and off the pitch.
November 25th, 1953 was the day when the soccer world was shocked by the Hungarian national team that - as the first the side outside the British Isles - beat England, the homeland of football. Not only the result, 6-3, was shocking for the English players but the way they were outplayed by the Hungarians. Although, he scored only one of the six goals, the captain of that Hungarian side, Ferenc Puskás, was clearly the master of ceremony. His vision of football contributed a lot to England's defeat. England international striker Tom Finney was watching that game from the pitch-side and here's how he recalls Puskás play.
Finney:"He must have been a tremendous presence for the side he was playing with because he was such a wonderful player. He had uncanny ball skills and was always in the throes of it really. He had this balance, and was a wonderful player, both finisher and passer of the ball. I well remember him scoring that goal against England. Billy Wright went in to tackle him and he just pulled it back all in one movement. Shot at the goal as well!
Born right next to the Kispest stadium in the southern part of the Hungarian capital in 1927, Ferenc Puskás made his debut with the senior team of the club at the age of 16 and with the national side two years later to become a dominant player both in his club, Kispest Honvéd and the Hungarian national team for the following 11 years. Captaining the world's undisputedly best side of those times, Puskás led Hungary to Olympic victory in 1952, a double victory over England (6-3 in London and 7-1 in Budapest) and to a World Cup silver medal in 1954. Following the 1956 events in Hungary, he chose freedom over uncertainty and - after his two-year ban by the Hungarian authorities expired - the best player signed for the best club, Real Madrid. This partnership resulted- among other things - in three European Champions Cup titles. A couple of years ago, he was elected by fans the best footballer Real Madrid ever had. He also played for the Spanish national side. The president of the European Football Federation UEFA, Lennart Johannson, had this to say about the legacy of Puskás:
"The footballer had long since become a legend. With that left foot which could be velvet or pure steel, he broke all sorts of records. He went into the annals of UEFA as the only player to have scored four goals and the only one to record two hat-tricks in European finals. And what can you say about his goal-scoring record: 83 goals in 84 games for Hungary and 324 in 372 for Real Madrid speak for themselves."
After hanging his boots at the age of 38, Puskás went on to become a coach. He worked on all five continents, and his top achievement was leading Greek side Panathinaikos to the Champions Cup final in 1971. He returned to Hungary in the 1980s once and moved back with his family in the early 1990s. For the past six years, he was hospitalised as the Alzheimer's disease overcame him more and more. His heart stopped beating on November 17th. However, people all over the world may not cease to talk about him.
Thanks to his achievements, Ferenc Puskás was and is still a trademark for Hungary. A Lebanese taxi driver, a visitor guide in Peru or a shop-owner in Sydney may not know much about Hungary but when they hear about this country, they would smile and say just one name with admiration: Puskas.