One of the most famous Hungarians to have ever lived, the star of Honvéd, Hungary’s Golden Team, and Real Madrid, footballer Ferenc Puskás died on this day 15 years ago.
Ferenc Puskás (1927-2006), also called the “Galloping Major” or “Pancho,” scored 83 goals in 84 games with the Hungarian national team (the “Golden Team“).
He became an Olympic champion in Helsinki, 1952, and scored twice in the “Match of the Century,” where Hungary beat England 6-3 in front of Wembley stadium’s 105,000-strong crowd.
One year later, he led the Golden Team to the final of the 1954 World Cup (which Hungary lost 3-2 to West Germany) where he was named the tournament’s best player.
As his club Honvéd was abroad due to an appearance in the European Cup in 1956 when the revolution erupted, the players decided against going back to Hungary. Following a fundraising tour in Western Europe and South America, Puskás himself was one of the several who chose not to return to Hungary.
He then signed with Real Madrid and was a member of the top Spanish club’s three European Cup-winning teams (1959, 1960, 1966). He even earned four caps in the Spanish national team later on, three of these were at the 1962 World Cup in Chile.
Following his retirement, he also managed several international top clubs and national teams, including Panathinaikos (with the Greek side he reached the European Cup final), Colo-Colo, Saudi Arabia, AEK Athens, and finally Hungary.
Puskás was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2000 and eventually died on November 17, 2006 of pneumonia in Budapest’s Kútvölgyi hospital at the age of 79.
He was buried under the dome of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest as millions of Hungarians mourned him in the streets. He is still one of the most well-known Hungarians and several places and organizations bear his name, including Hungary’s national stadium.
featured image via Fortepan / Márton Ernő Kovács