Anybody familiar with football knows the name of Ferenc Puskás. Football legend and iconic character that defined the game for decades, this man is single handedly responsible for putting Hungary on the map, and is cheered as a legendary underdog by avid football fans across the world. He is such a superstar that FIFA even named the award for most beautiful goal of the year after him! We wish to pay homage to this great athlete, so read on if you want to find out more about perhaps the most famous Hungarian to ever walk the Earth, and maybe even learn a little something about Hungarian football along the way, too.
Who is Puskás?
Ferenc Puskás was born on April 2nd of 1927, and died on the 17th of November 2006. He played in the Hungarian all star team (called the Golden Team) from 1945 until he emigrated from Hungary in 1956, after refusing to return to Budapest and the Communist dictatorship that would have squashed his career. Instead, he emigrated first to Spain, then Vienna, and finally started playing for Real Madrid. An avid critic of the dictatorships in Europe of the time, and a charismatic, working class football hero, he quickly rose to fame and fortune in Madrid. This extraordinary man trudged on for 8 seasons with Real, and played 180 games, scoring a whopping 156 goals. He was left footed, which was odd, and this, coupled with his extreme dedication to the sport and motivation from his rough war years, made him unstoppable.
The Golden Team
The Golden Team was the Hungarian National Football team from 1945-1956, of which Puskás was the captain of. Never has there been a team so popular among football fans, and never has there been such an unlikely team to succeed and become champions. The famous 6:3 they played against the British national team is one of the most watched games to this day. It was a massive win, and one against all odds, as the British national team were the absolute champions at that time. Although they defeated England twice, the first one (commonly referred to as “the 6:3”) is the most important, as it happened in Wembley stadium, on the British teams home turf (a fact Hungarians simply won’t shut up about). The Mighty Magyars were a force to be reckoned with, and no Hungarian football team has lived up to this magnificent team to this day, but currently, the massive infrastructure and tax money that is being redirected to football is hoped to churn out yet another edition of the Golden Team. So far, there has been no success.
Puskás Around the World
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Puskás legacy is the touch of political rebellion that permeates his early years. Hungary was a communist dictatorship, and Ferenc Puskás emigrated after 1956, the year that there was an armed uprising against the socialist regime. That uprising was drowned in blood, and the massacre that followed prompted a wave of emigration. Puskás flat out refused to return to Hungary after the European cup of 1956, and he went on to play in Real Madrid at the ripe old age of 31. This was the start of his career outside of the Golden Team, and it lasted until 1967, for another 9 years. He played many famous games for Real, and even assumed Spanish nationality so that he could play for the Spanish national team. After he needed to retire from playing, he managed and trained teams, and was in charge of Panathinaikos from 1971. Under his tutelage, Panathinaikos was the only Greek team ever to make it to the European finals (they did lose, though). This rebellious legacy is what made him so famous, and so charismatic.
The Puskás Heritage
Now that’s one impressive career, and naturally, it left quite a bit of heritage behind. Ferenc Puskás passed away in 2006 as a hero, with a stadium named after him, and a FIFA award for the most beautiful goal of the year bearing his name as well. Many movies have been made about him, and virtually every Hungarian child who like to kick a ball around dreams of him at some point in their lives. For many, he will stay a legend and a golden standard that they measure other football players too, much like Pelé or Ronaldo, in fact, he is the original football superstar. We salute you!
Pancho Fun facts
- HIs nickname was “Öcsi”, which means “little brother”
- He actually died of pneumonia while in a hospital in Hungary
- He played the entire 1954 World Cup Final with a hairline fracture
- The original team he played on was Honvéd Kispest, which was the official team of the army. Thus, all players had military rank, and he was a Major, which is why they called him the “galloping major”
- This year, in 2019 is the first time ever since its inception in 2009 that a Hungarian has been nominated for the FIFA Puskás award for most beautiful goal
- His tomb can be seen at the St. Stephen’s Basilica, which houses the remains of the founder of the Hungarian state, Saint Stephen of Hungary