Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ferenc Puskás

Ferenc Puskás (born Ferenc Purczeld; 1 April 1927 – 17 November 2006) was a Hungarian footballer and manager. He scored 84 goals in 85 international matches for Hungary, and 514 goals in 529 matches in the Hungarian and Spanish leagues. He became Olympic champion in 1952 and was a World Cup finalist in 1954. He won three European Cups (1959, 1960, 1966), 10 national championships (5 Hungarian & 5 Spanish Primera División) and 8 top individual scoring honors.

Puskás started his career in Hungary playing for Kispest and Budapest Honvéd. He was 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. In 1958, two years after the Hungarian Revolution, he emigrated to Spain where he played for Real Madrid.

While playing with Real Madrid, Puskás won four Pichichis and scored seven goals in two European Champions Cup finals. In 1995, he was recognized as the top scorer of the 20th century by the IFFHS.

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. In 1998, he became one of the first ever FIFA/SOS Charity ambassadors. In 2002, the Népstadion in Budapest was renamed the Puskás Ferenc Stadion in his honor. He was also declared the best Hungarian player of the last 50 years by the Hungarian Football Federation in the UEFA Jubilee Awards in November 2003. In October 2009, FIFA announced the introduction of the FIFA Puskás Award, awarded to the player who has scored the "most beautiful goal" over the past year.
Early years
Puskás was born as Ferenc Purczeld in Budapest and brought up in Kispest, then a village near the city. He was ten years old when his father Ferenc Sr. changed the family surname to Puskás. He began his career as a junior with Kispest AC, where his father, who had previously played for the club, was a coach.

He initially used the pseudonym Miklós Kovács to help circumvent the minimum age rules before officially signing at the age of 12. Among his early teammates was his childhood friend and future international teammate József Bozsik. He made his first senior appearance for Kispest in November 1943 in a match against Nagyváradi AC. It was here where he got the nickname "Öcsi" or "Buddy".

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, 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. In 1948, he was the top goal scorer in Europe.

Later life and death
Puskás was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2000. He was admitted to a Budapest hospital in September 2006 and died on 17 November 2006 of pneumonia. He is 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 laid to rest under the dome of the St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest on 9 December 2006.

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.

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