Friday, Apr 05, 2002
Front Page |
Southern States |
Other States |
Advts: Classifieds | Employment | Obituary |
He had the rare honour of representing two countries in the World Cup, first Hungary, where he was born and then Spain, where he had a long outstanding stint with Real Madrid. Ferenc Puskas was an amazing talent for one predominantly left-footed and largely ineffective in his heading. England had the taste of his capability in 1953 when Wembley witnessed for the first time the host country being beaten. Hungary won 6-3 and for the style and effectiveness of their play the Hungarians soon came to be known as the Magnificient Magyars. Puskas was the architect of that sensational triumph.
There were snide remarks about him prior to that England match. ``Fat and little'', the Englishmen thought of him but the little chap conjured up such ball skills that England's reputation as a world football power took a beating. As though to prove Hungary's win was no flash in the pan Puskas and Co inflicted a 7-1 drubbing not much later in Budapest and doubts cleared forever about this short, barrel chested player, who had a dynamite in his left leg.
Puskas rose to become one of the greatest schemers and goalscorers rolled into one. `Ocsi' (little man) to his friends, Puskas made his debut with the suburban club of Kispest when just 16 years. Soon the military club Honved took over Kispest. Between 1948 and 53, Puskas was crowned top goalscorer four times. The Hungarian legend made his international debut in 1945 against Austria.
A force to reckon with before the war, Hungary lost the 1938 World Cup final to Italy. Soon Soviet Union intervened and the country came under the Communist banner. But football thrived, and the Army became the focal point for the game's nurturing with the military club Hanved the team to churn out players for the national squad. In the first season Puskas scored 50 goals as he helped Honved to the first of its four Hungarian championships.
With professionals non-existent under communist rule, Puskas' major international show came in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Built around five key players, Puskas being the spearhead, Hungary won the gold at the expense of Yugoslavia. Then came the rout of England. Riding high on its success (the country had not lost a match for four years) Hungary was billed a favourite for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. It began well running tall scores against South Korea and West Germany but Puskas suffered an ankle injury, courtsey West German centre-half Werner Liebrich. Then came the infamous battle of Berne involving Hungary and Brazil, a match replete with violence that spread to the dressing room as well.
Puskas missed the semi-final and in the final Hungary was once again pitted against West Germany. Puskas, keen to play, declared himself fit though he was far from his normal best. Still he helped Hungary take a 2-0 lead but Germany fought back, equalised and went ahead through Rahn. In a desperate bid Puskas `equalised' but was caught off side. West Germany won and Puskas was to carry the stigma of a loser just when it mattered most.
The Hungarian uprising saw Puskas go into exile and Real Madrid brought him to Spain. He and Real Madrid had an outstanding association, winning the European Cup five times. Puskas became a Spanish citizen and represented the country in the Chile World Cup 1962. But Spain faded away and his dream of adding a World Cup to his rich collection lay shattered forever. Till 1966 he was with Real and then shifted to coaching. The high point came when he was given charge of the Hungarian national squad in 1993; a gesture he considered equivalent to earning forgiveness for fleeing the country. S.R. Suryanarayan
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | Home |
Copyright © 2002, The
Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of