Written in 2009 by Emma Anspach, Hilah Almog, and Taylor.

Edited & Updated in 2013 by Brittney Balser and Alessandro Santalbano


A communist society aims to liberate the working class man, known as the proletariat.  The proletariat’s only capital comes from his labor and thus he can be easily exploited.  The plight of the proletariat did not exist until the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of capitalism.  To free the proletariat from the bonds of capitalism, revolution must occur and all goods are publicly controlled [1].  Communism was idealized in the Communist Manifesto written by the Germans Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Communism was first put into practice after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, which was led by Vladimir Lenin.  All land was made public and many institutions were nationalized.  In order to transform society, the central government had complete control over all aspects of life.  Upon, Lenin’s death, Joseph Stalin took control of the government.  After World War II, Stalin increased the influence of Communism to Eastern Europe.


The Soviet Union

Joseph Stalin was intensely fearful of an attack by his Western, capitalist, counterparts on Russia[2].  This fear prompted him to help create Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe.  Stalin was constantly afraid of being overthrown and thus attempted to keep all aspects of the Soviet Union closely under his control.  He imprisoned thousands of his opponents but was widely popular among the rural population for his success in defeating Germany in World War II.  Stalin heavily used propaganda to promote his own image, as well as the image of Communism. Football was one small tool he utilized in the Soviet Union, even though he was not a fan of the sport.  His soon, Vasillii, avidly watched football and encouraged his father to take a large interest in the sport.



Since 1938, Hungarians have understood that politics and football are intrinsically linked.  Hungary played Italy in the 1938 World Cup Final in France.  Before the game, Mussolini sent the Italian team a telegram stating “Win or Die[3].”  The Hungarians were aware of the threat facing the Italian team, and it is debated whether the Hungarian team took the message into account during the course of the game.  After the Hungarians lost the match 4-2, the Hungarian goalkeeper, Antal Szabo, quipped that he had just saved eleven lives.  This was the last World Cup game before war broke out in Europe.

During World War II, Hungary played other Axis teams, since regular international play was severely restricted.  Hungary was invited to take part in the first World Cup after World War II, in 1950.  However, Hungary was under the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence at this time.  The oppressive Communist regime led by the Soviet puppet Matyas Rakosi was not ready to showcase its talent to teams outside the Eastern bloc.

Once the Hungarians began playing teams outside the Eastern bloc, they quickly proved their skills in the sport.  Outside the World Cup, from 1950 to 1956, Hungary won 43 games and tied the other 7 of its 51 international games.  Sadly, in 1956 politics disrupted the Hungarian team’s success.  On October 23, 1956 a group of university students led a protest in Budapest against the Communists.  At this demonstration, a bronze statue of Stalin was toppled and dragged through the streets of Budapest, beginning the revolution.  Unfortunately for the Hungarians, the revolution ended on November 4, leaving 2,500 revolutionaries dead, 26,000 arrested, and 1,200 executed. After the uprising, political opposition was severely suppressed and much of the national team fled the country.

The Toppling of Stalin's Statue

Photo from:


Football and Hungary

When examining football in Hungary, most Hungarians would not hesitate to call the 1950s the glory days of Hungarian football.  While the country was grappling with their World War II legacy and the spread of communism, football provided a chance for Hungarians to unite.  Hungary was accustomed to being a powerful nation in the region, with the great Austro-Hungarian Empire.  However, Hungary was on the losing end of both World Wars.  The country needed something to rebuild national pride.  The answer was football and the great Magical Magyars.

Hungary before 1918

Hungarian empire before 1918

Photo from:

Hungary Now

Hungary after World War II

Photo from


The Match of the Century

On November 25, 1953, the “Match of the Century” took place between England and Hungary at England’s Wembley Stadium.  It was called the “Match of the Century” by the English press because both teams were highly ranked.  Before England’s embarrassing defeat in the “Match of Century,” England had never lost a game at home against a team from continental Europe.  England, the “inventors” of football, played in a rigid style that allowed for little flexibility of movement from its players.  It was no match for the Hungarian total football, which was incredibly flexible and utilized every player on the field in the style reminiscent of idealized communism.

Before the game, it was reported that one English player said, “Look at that little fat chap (referring to Ferenc Puskás). We’ll murder this lot.”  The Hungarians humiliated the English team, and Puskás contributed to the effort, scoring the third goal as he changed direction around the English captain Billy Wright. The Hungarian won the game 6-3.  This win was no fluke, as the Hungarians beat the English in Budapest 7 to 1 a year later.

The English were shocked by the lost.  Although they knew that Hungary had not lost a game in over three years, they were unprepared for the new style of play.  Like the Soviet Union, Hungary kept its talent closely guarded.



Further Information:

The Magical Magyars

Ferenc Puskás

Main Topics:

Football and Politics in Europe

Hitler, Nazi Philosophy and Sports

Mussolini’s Football


1934 World Cup


How to cite this article: “Football and Politics in Europe, 1930s-1950s” Written by Emma Anspach, Hilah Almog, and Taylor (2009), Edited and Updated by Brittney Balser and Alessandro Santalbano (2013), Soccer Politics Pages, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).



[1] Simkin, John. “Spartacus International.”

[2] Engels, Friedrich. “The Principles of Communism.”

[3] Murray, Bill. The World’s Game. Edited by University of Illinois Press 1996.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *