Saturday, April 2, 2011

2 April 1927 - The Mightiest Magyar

On 2 April 1927, Real Madrid superstar Ferenc Puskás was born in Budapest. After winning Olympic gold and finishing as World Cup runners-up with Hungary, he ended his international career with Spain.

He started his professional career in 1943 with local Budapest side Kispest AC and quickly established himself as a dynamic goalscorer. In 1949, the Hungarian government rebranded Kispest as Budapest Honvéd, using it as the Army team. Puskás rose to the rank of major while leading the side to five league titles.

In 1945, at the age of 18, he joined the Hungarian national team and scored 84 goals in 85 appearances, including four goals in their gold-medal winning campaign for the 1952 Summer Olympics and four more in their run to the 1954 World Cup Final. There, a loss to West Germany ended Hungary's streak of 32 consecutive unbeaten matches, a period of success that earned them the name "the Mighty Magyars."

While on a world tour with Honvéd in 1956, the Hungarian Revolution broke out back home. Puskás and several other player decided not to return to Hungary and ended up in Spain. Puskás joined Real Madrid, where he won five La Liga titles and three European Cups. In 1962, he acquired Spanish nationality and played four matches for Spain, including three at that year's World Cup.

After retiring in 1966, he took up management for several teams. His most successful period as manager came with Panathinaikos, whom he guided to the European Cup Final in 1971. He returned to Hungary in 1993 and briefly led the national team before retiring for good later that year.

He died in Budapest in 2006 at the age of 79.

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