Hungry for football glory

A file picture of the legendary Hungarian Puskas in the 1950s.

ALTHOUGH Hungary did not make it to this year’s World Cup in Russia, their countrymen still harbour hopes to see their team excel on the prestigious football stage again some day.

Hungarian Football Tradition and Affairs ambassador György Szöllosi, who was in town early this month, could not help but be amazed by the love of football among Malaysians.

Szöllosi, whose trip was to promote Hungarian football movies during the Hungarian Film Festival organised by the embassy and Golden Screen Cinemas, also took time to visit the national football stadium in Bukit Jalil as well as meet with officials from the Asian Football Confederation.

He also shared stories on popular Hungarian footballers with young local football fans through his book on the legendary Ferenc Puskas, which has since been turned into a documentary on the big screen.

“The great personalities of football history were artists like the Hungarian heroes of FC Barcelona.

(From left) Hungarian ambassador to Malaysia Attila Kali, FIFA Puskas 2016 award winner Mohd Faiz and Szllosi. — Photo: M.AZHAR.ARIF/The Star

(From left) Hungarian ambassador to Malaysia Attila Kali, FIFA Puskas 2016 award winner Mohd Faiz and Szllosi. — Photo: M.AZHAR.ARIF/The Star

“For instance, Laszlo Kubala was the best FC Barcelona player of the 20th century as voted by the club’s supporters, which led to the transformation for the club into a brand, like Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player for Real Madrid’s first golden age,” he said.

Both names were very popular among Hungarians in the 1950s.

Coincidentally Kubala and Puskas were born in Budapest, two street corners away from each other, in the same year, 1927.

They only met each other when they played together in the Budapest youth team at the age of 14.

From 1958 to 1966, Puskas played for Real Madrid and was the top goal scorer in the La Liga for four seasons.

Szöllosi, who spent most of his early writing years researching on Puskas, said it wasn’t easy as the footballer left Hungary at his prime to play for Real Madrid and his adopted country, Spain, which he emigrated to after the Hungarian Revolution.

“There were no stories about him (Puskas) in the Hungarian news then, making it difficult for me to source for photos of him,” he said, adding that he had to travel out to piece together four decades of history.

After retiring, Puskas became a coach for Greek club, Panathinaikos FC and later the South Melbourne Hellas whom he won the National Soccer League with in 1991.

“Scoring a goal is very important in a football match and great scorers often become popular celebrities later in life,” he said, adding that Puskas was pardoned in 1993 and returned home to Hungary to take charge of the national team.

Puskas passed away in 2006 at the age of 79, a year after Szöllosi completed the 500-page biography.

The book has since been translated into seven languages.

In 2009, FIFA introduced the FIFA Puskas Award after Ferenc Puskas for his exceptional goal scoring skills. The award is to honour the footballer with the most beautiful goal of the year.

Among the winners since then were Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Miroslav Stoch, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and James Rodriguez.

Malaysian footballer Mohd Faiz Subri joined the list in 2016 with his winning goal in the Malaysia Super League.

“This award guarantees the name Ferenc Puskas will continue to live on every year. For me, as the founder of the award, it was an amazing moment to hear the name Ferenc Puskas again,” said Szöllosi.

Golden Screen Cinemas screened four Hungarian films; Puskas Hungary, Barca’s Untold Legends, Brazils and 6:3 A.K.A Past Plays Itself early this month to celebrate the 21st FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.

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