Written in 2009 by Emma Anspach, Hilah Almog, and Taylor.
Edited & Updated in 2013 by Brittney Balser and Alessandro Santalbano
Ferenc Puskás was born outside of Budapest in 1927 to a family of very modest means. Puskás physical appearance was remarkably different than the other footballers. Instead of being tall and lean, Puskás was quite short and stout. Additionally, Puskás was much slower than many of his teammates. Nevertheless, Puskás was a prolific goal scorer, known for his strong left foot. In his youth, Puskás’ played at the club Kispet. However, after World War II the club was transformed into an Army club and renamed Honved. In his career at Kispet and Honved, Puskás scored 357 goals in 354 games.
During his time playing international football for Hungary, Puskás scored 83 goals in 84 games. Pele, the Brazilian great, is the only player with a better ratio. Puskás was the captain of the Hungarian during the team’s peak—from 1950 to 1956.
At the time of the Hungarian uprising, Honved was on tour in Spain for a European Cup game. Puskás, who supported the uprising, defected to Spain along with several other players. The Hungarian Soccer Federation attempted to stop Honved from playing, but Puskás, as captain, said the team no longer recognized the authority of the Hungarian Soccer Federation. He also vocalized his support of the Hungarian Revolution. His denunciation of the Hungarian Soccer Federation was significant. It was unusual for athletes under Communist regimes to vocalize their political feelings. Additionally, Puskás had no history of being outspoken politically. Puskás’ willingness to openly support the Hungarian Revolution shows how popular of a movement it was inside the country, even if it was destined for failure.
From 1956 to 1958 Puskás traveled around Western Europe, refusing to sign with another team until his wife and daughter escaped Hungary. Puskás gained weight and no Italian club would sign him. He was considered past his prime at 31 years old. Eventually, Real Madrid signed Puskás, beginning his new life. At Real Madrid Puskás won 3 European Cups. From 1961-1965, Real Madrid won the Spanish league every year. During his career at Real, Puskás scored 324 goals in 372 games. In 1961, Puskás became a naturalized citizen of Spain and even played a few games for his adopted country in the 1962 World Cup in Chile. In 1966, at the age of 39, Puskás finally retired.
Puskás did not return to Hungary until after the end of Communism, fearing for his life if he returned earlier. In 1998, Puskás was inducted into the FIFA Hall of Champions and in 1999 he was voted the 6th best player of the 20th century. His career was irreversibly changed because of Communism. In a country deeply divided over political ideology Puskás was a figure that all Hungarians could respect and worship for his remarkable football skills.
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, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).
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