Today is the 8th anniversary of Ferenc Puskás’ passing. As one of the world’s best players ever, he is still the most recognized Hungarian worldwide.
On the grounds of the current artificial grass covered practice field stood the “city dwellings” from which the two best friends, Öcsi Puskás and Cucu Bozsik began their journey toward world fame. The Lipták factory grounds were located adjacent to the fields of the team known back then as KAC. Here, day after day the local boys from Kispest kicked the balls made mainly of used clothing wrapped by hosiery around. Öcsi’s father, the “Elder Purczeld” became the coach of the senior team in the early 40’s and soon after that he gave the two teenagers a playing opportunity that they certainly took advantage of.
Although it’s not necessary to highlight Puskás’ career and achievements, here is a compilation since we’re extremely pround of them:
Uncle Öcsi has 85 caps for the Hungarian National Team, scoring 84 goals. Later on he was selected to the Spanish National Team 4 times. He only played for 2 clubs in his life KAC (which became Budapesti Honvéd) and Real Madrid. At Kispest between 1943 and 1956 he played in 349 league matches scoring 358 goals. At Real Madrid between 1958 and 1967 he played in 372 matches scoring 324 times.
He was on Olympic champion, won the Silver medal at the 1954 World Cup, European Cup winner, World Club Champion, six time Spanish and five time Hungarian league champion and 4 time scoring champion in both countries. He won the Champion’s Cup 3 times, the Spanish Cup twice, was the captaion of Hungary’s Golden Team and also was awarded the honor of Hungary’s Sportsman.
As a coach, his greatest accomplishment was in Athens, where in 1971 he guided Panathinaikos to the Champion’s League final. In 1993 he became the manager of Hungary’s National Team.
It took nearly 50 years for players that followed to break some of his records, but some of his most outstanding accomplishments may never be broken.
The 84 goals he scored for the Hungarian National Team seem unbreakable, and even to date he is the only player that scored 4 goals in the Champion’s League final against Eintracht Frankfurt, that Real Madrid won 7:3. No one else can claim that they even scored three goals in two Champion’s League final.
It is no wonder that no-one can ever wear the number 10 at his beloved club Budapest Honvéd, since his number was retired.
Hi scored his most memorable goal at Wembley stadium during Hungary’s 6:3 thumping of England, when he beat Billy Wright with a pullback fake. To date this move is the most replicated by players and a staple of soccer documentaries.
In 2009 FIFA established the Ferenc Puskás award, which is presented to the player that scored the most outstanding goal. This is the first award named after a soccer legend.
Due to circumstances involving the 1956 revolution, he was only able to return to Hungary in 198. From the airport, he immediately went to the cemetery in Kispest, where his beloved parents are buried. After this time, he visited his homeland quite often and most of the time he stayed at the Aero Hotel on Határ Street, from where he took street car # 42 to his beloved stadium. There were numerous occasions when one could overhear fathers or grandfathers pointing out the smiling, hefty man to their kids or grandkids stating that there will never, ever be another soccer player like that old man sitting there!
In 1991 he came back to Hungary for good. He was made Kispest’s honorary citizen that year.
He stated the following one time:
“I loved and adored football! I loved my family and spending time on the field. I was not interested in anything else. My favorite toy was always the soccer ball. I felt the most secure, when I had a ball with me, or if I was playing with it…”.
In 2002 for his 75th birthday, the country honored him by naming the largest stadium after him.
We remember forever that even though he was in frail health and in and out of the hospital he circled the field in a convertible driven by Hungary’s Formula 1 driver, Zsolt Baumgartner and also that even though he was very ill, for one final time he kicked the ceremonial ball with his famous left foot.
After a lengthy illness he passed away on November 17, 2006. On the eve of his passing thousands of his fans lit candles, placed flowers and team scarves at Bozsik Stadium. Numerous supporters of Fradi, Vasas and Ujpest also expressed their condolences in person, which is the way it should be. We’ll forever remember that on this cold fall night on the ground of the current practice field the name “Puskás” was written with lit candles.
A State Funeral was held in his honor on December 9th and his last trip took him from the stadium bearing his name, not to Kispest, but to St. Stephen Basilica. The date was also declared a national day of mourning.
Since then, Ferenc Puskás’ name can be found on restaurants, schools, parks along with a soccer academy. There are also numerous commemorative plaques in areas that he frequently visited.
The memory of Ferenc Puskás belongs to all of us, not just in Hungary, but in every soccer loving nation throughout the world.
We, the people of Kispest are the most proud to have had him!
Uncle Öcsi, rest in peace forever!