Ferenc Puskas – nicknamed the Galloping Major, Hungary’s finest player and one of the best football players the world has ever seen.
“I will write of my life as a footballer as if it were a love story, for who shall say that it is not?” – Puskas, shortly before his death.
Puskas on Puskas
My favourite quotes:
On England 3-6 Hungary in 1953:
I was in my kit, hanging about in the corridor, when I saw the England inside-right [Eddie] Taylor, who wasn’t very tall. I popped back into the dressing room and said to the others: ‘Listen, we’re going to be all right, they’ve got someone even smaller than me.’
I got an equaliser right at the death but that Welsh linesman Griffiths disallowed it for offside, even though the English ref Bill Ling had given it. We were already back in the centre circle by the time he flagged. I’ll never forgive him for that. We didn’t argue – not on the pitch anyway – and the Germans won. We hung our heads. What could we do? We couldn’t beat up the linesman, that’s for sure, but I was pretty mad.
On post-ban interest from Real Madrid:
I said: ‘I’m too fat, I can’t possibly play. I need time to get my weight down. But there I was the very next day in Madrid, the size of a balloon, having a very weird ‘conversation’ with [Santiago] Bernabeu [the Real Madrid president]. There was no interpreter present. He was rabbiting away in Spanish; me in Hungarian… In the end I threw up my arms and gestured: ‘Listen this is all very well but have you looked at me? I am 18 kilos overweight.’ Bernabeu replied: ‘That’s not my problem it’s yours.’ And that was that. I was a Real Madrid player, if a rather heavy one. Bernabeu gave me $5,000 straight away, which came in very handy. I didn’t cost Real Madrid a penny in transfer fees. I was never bought or sold in my career.
Team-mates complained about Puskas’s influence over coaches and about his constant hectoring on the pitch, but nobody ever accused him of being selfish. Along with everything else, he was a hugely astute leader. In his first season at Real Madrid, for instance, he and the notoriously difficult Alfredo di Stefano were joint leading scorers going into the final match of the season. Late on, Puskas had a chance to score but opted instead to wait and square it for Di Stefano, recognising the problems it could cause for morale if the Argentinian did not finish as top scorer. He showed similar selflessness after that 1960 European Cup final, handing the match ball to Erwin Stein, who had scored two of Eintracht’s three goals. Puskas had scored four.
Puskas – greatest European player ever? – tribute by Jonathan Wilson (Guardian)
“Look at that little fat chap. We’ll murder this lot.” In the long and inglorious annals of great British sporting disasters, few judgments have been wider of the mark.
The “little fat chap” was Ferenc Puskas, the Hungarian captain. Indeed, he was an odd looking footballer. He was short, stocky, barrel-chested, overweight, couldn’t head and only used one foot.
Yet no one in Britain had seen ball skills like his as he inspired a performance that completely demolished England’s reputation as a world football power.