Ferenc Puskás – Soccer Player (1927–2006)
Full Name: Ferenc Puskás
Date of birth: 1 April 1927
Place of birth: Budapest, Hungary
Date of death: 17 November 2006 (aged 79)
Place of death: Budapest, Hungary
Height: 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Playing position: Striker
Ferenc Puskás also called the Galloping Major was born on April 2, 1927, Budapest, Hungary and died November 17, 2006, Budapest, Hungarian professional football (soccer) player who was the sport’s first international superstar. Puskás scored 83 goals in 84 games with the Hungarian national team and was a member of three European Cup-winning teams (1959, 1960, 1966) with the Spanish club Real Madrid.
A prolific forward, he scored 84 goals in 85 international matches for Hungary, and 514 goals in 529 matches in the Hungarian and Spanish leagues. Puskás’s Hungary career is often said to be 83 goals in 84 games – the extra game and goal was from a match vs Lebanon that was played in 1956, however it was only recognised as an official game by the Hungarian FA in May 2002. He became an Olympic champion in 1952 and led his nation to the final of the 1954 World Cup where he was named the tournament’s best player. He won three European Cups (1959, 1960, 1966), 10 national championships (5 Hungarian and 5 Spanish Primera División) and 8 top individual scoring honors.
Ferenc Puskás starred for Honvéd SE and Hungary’s powerful national team in the 1950s. After defecting during the Hungarian Revolution, the stocky forward enjoyed more success with Spain’s Real Madrid club. Puskás returned to Hungary after 25 years in exile, and saw Budapest’s largest sports arena renamed in his honor shortly before his death.
He was the top scorer in the Hungarian League on four occasions, and in 1948, he was the top goal scorer in Europe. During the 1950s, he was both a prominent member and captain of the Hungarian national team, known as the Mighty Magyars.
After retiring as a player, he became a coach. The highlight of his coaching career came in 1971 when he guided Panathinaikos to the European Cup final, where they lost 2–0 to AFC Ajax. Despite his defection in 1956, the Hungarian government granted him a full pardon in 1993, allowing him to return and take temporary charge of the Hungarian national team.
Ferenc Puskás was joined the youth soccer team of Kispest AC, where his father was a coach, and made his debut for the senior team at the age of 16. Named to the Hungarian national squad as an 18-year-old, he scored in his international debut, against Austria.
He went on to play 85 games and scored 84 times for Hungary. His international goal record included two hat tricks against Austria, one against Luxembourg and four goals in a 12–0 win over Albania.
Puskás emerged as the top player for Kispet, which was renamed Budapest Honvéd SE as the Hungarian Army team in the late 1940s. Short and stocky, he didn’t look the part of a soccer star, but he was renowned for his deadly left foot and unparalleled field vision. Nicknamed “The Galloping Major,” Puskás led Europe with 50 goals in 1948 and helped Honvéd win five Hungarian League titles over a seven-year span.
During this period, the Hungarian national team established itself as an unbeatable juggernaut against other nations. With Puskás serving as captain, the “Magical Magyars” logged 43 wins and seven ties over 51 matches from 1950 to ’56. Their highlights included a gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games, and back-to-back thrashings of the powerful English team by a combined score of 13-4.
Puskás scored three goals in the two first-round matches Hungary played at the 1954 FIFA World Cup. They defeated South Korea 9–0 and then West Germany 8–3. In the latter game, he suffered a hairline fracture of the ankle after a tackle by Werner Liebrich, and did not return until the final.
Puskás played the entire 1954 World Cup final against West Germany with the hairline fracture. Despite this, he scored his fourth goal of the tournament to put Hungary ahead after six minutes, and with Czibor adding another goal two minutes later, it seemed that the pre-tournament favorites would take the title. However, the West Germans pulled back two goals before half time, with six minutes left the West Germans scored the winner. Two minutes from the end of the match, Puskás appeared to score an equalizer but the goal was disallowed due to an offside call.
During his nine years in Spain, Puskás led Real Madrid to five consecutive league titles and three European Cup victories, and claimed four scoring titles. He retired from soccer in 1966, having recorded nearly a goal per game in his stints with Honvéd, the Hungarian national team and Real Madrid.
In 1962, Puskás took Spanish nationality, and subsequently played four times for Spain. Three of these games were at the 1962 World Cup. For once, his goal scoring form deserted him and he failed to score any goals for Spain.
In 1967, at the age of 40, he appeared in a fundraising friendly game for South Liverpool, the English non-League side, in front of a 10,000-strong sell-out crowd at the club’s Holly Park stadium.
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1943–1955 Budapest Honvéd 341 (352)
1958–1966 Real Madrid 180 (156)
Total 521 (508)
Coaching and Management Career
After retiring as a player, Puskás became a coach and managed teams in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
The Galloping Major finally returned to his home country in 1981 to play in an exhibition match, and he coached the Hungarian national team for four games in 1993. In early 2000, he finished No. 6 in a player of the century poll conducted by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.
During his four-year tenure at Panathinaikos, Puskás helped the team secure one Greek Championship in 1972. However, with the notable exception of his spell at Panathinaikos, Puskás failed to transfer his success as a player to his coaching career.
Despite his wide travels, his only other success came with South Melbourne Hellas, with whom he won the National Soccer League title in 1991.
In 1993 he took charge of the Hungarian national football team for four games, including a 4–2 friendly victory against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin, where Hungary came from two goals down to eventually beat their opponents.
Puskás was born as Ferenc Purczeld on 1 April 1927, in Budapest and brought up in Kispest, then a suburb, today part of the city. His father, Ferenc Puskás Sr. (1903–1952) was a Danube Swabian of German ethnicity, who Magyarized his family surname to “Puskás” in 1937. His mother, Margit Biró (1904–1976), was a seamstress. He began his career as a junior with Kispest AC, where his father, who had previously played for the club, was a coach. He had grandchildren’s, whose were the children of his brother’s son; the two sons of his brother are Zoltan and Istvan, the first one have 3 children; Ilonka, Camila and Andrés, and the second one have two, Matthias and Thomas.
Kispest was taken over by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence in 1949, becoming the Hungarian Army team and changing its name to Budapest Honvéd. As a result, football players were given military ranks. Puskás eventually became a major (Hungarian: Őrnagy), which led to the nickname “The Galloping Major”. As the army club, Honvéd used conscription to acquire the best Hungarian players, leading to the recruitment of Zoltán Czibor and Sándor Kocsis. During his career at Budapest Honvéd, Puskás helped the club win five Hungarian League titles. He also finished as top goal scorer in the league in 1947–48, 1949–50, 1950 and 1953, scoring 50, 31, 25 and 27 goals, respectively.
Puskás was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2000.He was admitted to a Budapest hospital in September 2006. He appeared at a ceremony when Budapest’s largest sports arena was renamed Ferenc Puskás Stadium in 2002, but rarely resurfaced as his health diminished. He died of cardiovascular and respiratory failure in his native city on November 17, 2006.
He was 79 years old and was survived by his wife of 57 years, Erzsébet, and their daughter, Anikó. In a state funeral, his coffin was moved from Puskás Ferenc Stadion to Heroes’ Square for a military salute. He was buried under the dome of the St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest on 9 December 2006. Millions of Hungarians went to the streets to mourn him.
A street named Újtemető utca near Stadium Bozsik in the Hungarian capital of Budapest (specifically the district of Kispest) was renamed after Puskás precisely one year after the footballer’s death.
- Hungarian League: 1949/50, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955
- Spanish League: 1960–61, 1961–62, 1962–63, 1963–64, 1964–65
- Spanish Cup: 1961–1962
- European Cup: 1958–1959, 1959–1960, 1965–1966
- Intercontinental Cup: 1960
- Balkan Cup Champions: 1947
- Olympic Champions: 1952
- Central European Champions: 1953
- World Cup Runners-up: 1954
- Ballon d’Or Silver Award: 1960
- Hungarian Football Federation Player of the Year: 1950
- Central European International Cup: Top Scorer (10 Goals): 1954
- Hungarian Top Scorer: 1947–48, 1949–50, 1950, 1953
- Spanish League Top Scorer (Pichichi Trophy): 1959–60, 1960–61, 1962–63, 1963–64
- World Soccer Player of the Year: 1953
- World Soccer World XI: 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963
- European Player of the Year: 1953
- 1954 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball Winner
- Named in the 1954 FIFA World Cup All-Star Team
- European Player of the 20th century L’Equipe
- Hungarian Player of the 20th century
- Football’s Top Scorer of the 20th century-International Federation of Football History and Statistics
- Member of the FIFA 100
- UEFA Golden Player: Hungary
- Inaugural Inductee into Goal Hall of Fame 2014
- Top 10 Greatest Players of the 20th century (#7) -World Soccer Magazine
- Top 10 World’s Best Players of the 20th century (#6) -International Federation of Football History and Statistics
- Top 10 Europe’s Best Players of the 20th century (#4) -International Federation of Football History and Statistics
- European Cup Top Scorer (12 goals; 7 goals): 1960, 1964
- Golden Boot of the World in 1948: (50 goals)
- Golden Foot: 2006 (as a legend)
- Alpha Ethniki: 1969–70, 1971–72
- European Cup
- Runners-Up: 1971
- Intercontinental Cup
- Runners-Up: 1971
Sol de América
- Paraguayan Primera División: 1986
South Melbourne Hellas
- National Soccer League: 1990–91
- NSL Cup: 1989–90
- Dockerty Cup: 1989 and 1991