Ferenc Puskas's name is etched onto the pages of history as one of the greatest players to play football. Better known for his fabulous career with Real Madrid, Puskas had a lesser-known, heartbreaking relationship with his home country. He was a vocal supporter of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 - an uprising protesting against the country's authoritarian government.
Puskas refused to return home after Soviet troops came in to crush the rebellion. At the time, Hungary had the best football team in the world, scoring 220 goals in just 51 matches. They lost just one game in that decade, and that was in the World Cup final of 1954. His dream of winning the World Cup with the national team was never fulfilled.
Puskas and his early club career
Ferenc Puskas started his career with the football club Kispest. The country's ensuing politics led to Kispest being acquired by the Hungarian Ministry of Defense in 1949. The club became the official football team of the Hungarian Army, with the team’s name changed to Budapest Honved.
Since Budapest Honved was an army club, military ranks were given to football players. Puskas became a major, and due to his sheer talent and skill, he was nicknamed 'The Galloping Major.' Budapest Honved used the advantage it had as an army club by using conscription to acquire the best players in the country. This made them extremely successful domestically. Puskas went on to win five league titles with Honved.
The supremacy of the Hungarian national team
In the 1950s, the Hungarian National football team was exceptional. Their revolutionary style of playing football changed the way the sport was played. They were one of the most feared international football teams of the time. Hungary had few of the most dangerous attacking talents of the time, with the likes of Puskas, Kocsis, Zoltan Czibor, and Hidegkuti.
The Hungarian players ran rampant on the pitch, scoring an astonishing 220 goals in just 51 matches. Hungary got its nickname - 'The Magnificent Magyars' after it demolished England 6-3 at Wembley, followed by a 6-1 demolition of the English in Budapest. They could've won the 1954 World Cup, but they lost narrowly to West Germany in the final.
Puskas's short international career was nothing less than spectacular, scoring 84 goals in just 85 matches for Hungary. He has broken several records and has one of the best goal-to-game ratios in the history of international football.
The Hungarian Revolution and the exile of Puskas
As a player, Puskas has won almost everything in his club career. However, he could not achieve all the glory he deserved on the international stage due to the prevailing geopolitics of the region.
He was on tour across Europe, playing in the European Cup with his club Honved in 1956 when tragedy struck back in his homeland. The Hungarian Revolution destabilized the country and the USSR sent troops to quell the uprising. His international footballing career with Hungary came to a tragic end as he refused to return to his country after Soviet troops entered the country.
Success with Real Madrid
UEFA banned him for two years for not returning to Budapest. He was without a club or country to play for in the prime years of his career. Despite that, Real Madrid put their faith in a 31-year-old and signed him in 1958. Puskas repaid this faith by taking the Spanish League by storm and being the league's top scorer on four occasions.
Puskas, along with the legendary Alfredo di Stefano, was the chief architect of Real Madrid's unprecedented European success in the early stages of the competition. He outrageously scored a total of seven goals in 1960 (four goals against Eintracht Frankfurt) and the 1962 European Cup finals (hat-trick against Benfica).
Ferenc Puskas and the Hungarian national football team of the 1950s are often forgotten by mainstream footballing culture. This piece of glorious history, written in golden letters by one of football's greatest, can never be overlooked.