Saturday, November 18, 2006
Almost exactly a year after the death of one footballing legend, George Best, another, Ferenc Puskas has met his end, admittedly at an advanced age of 79, and following a long illness. Puskas is one of those players that people of my generation know exclusively by reputation, though that was probably the case in his playing days too, when media coverage of football was confined to Pathé newsreel items. He became a mythical figure however due to a convergence of phenomena: the fantastic run of the Magical Magyars where they lost only one match in six years (unfortunately it was the 1954 World Cup final); the failed Hungarian revolution of 1956, after which Puskas and many of his teammates fled West; and of course the rise of Real Madrid as the premier European club, Puskas, Alfredo di Stefano and Paco Gento being the troika that won them the first five Champions' Cups. When I was growing up it was common to see Puskas togged out for veterans' matches, a touching demonstration of the obvious love he had for the game. Though I have no particular vested interest in Hungarian football I find the current parlous state of the game and the national team there sad considering the rich history they have.