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Puskás's Peers Merited Only Terse, Belated Notices


Attila Ághassi
Friday, 8 December 2006, 12:37

When we heard, here at home, even belatedly, of the deaths of three members of Hungary's best-known football team, it would appear as only a sentence in the sports papers of that time. Kocsis fell from a hospital window, and Gyula Lóránt suffered a heart attack while sitting on the substitute's bench, although that only came to light years later. Up till now, only József Bozsik and Nándor Hidegkuti have received proper farewell tributes.

It may be an exaggeration to claim that the Golden Team captain, Ference Puskás, who died on 17 November, is now receiving final respects in place of his earlier deceased peers. It is as though the conscience of the country were speaking. Indeed, under the dictatorship, his teammates could not receive the honours that they undoubtedly deserved. After all, they made up Hungary's greatest football team, which went unbeaten for more than three years. The Golden Team's name and reputation became known throughout Europe, its players revered as football gurus. It was only here at home, of all places, that they were forgotten, where their fame became uncomfortable for some.

Zakariás Was the First Team Member to Pass Away

People were usually informed late and often perfunctorily about the death of those who died during the dictatorship. There was no possibility of having a state funeral. Anyway, it was basically not an option for football players - although, there were some very rare exceptions, such as József Bozsik.

It was 1971, when the 47-year-old József Zakariás died, the first from the team that had won the Olympic Games and had earned a silver medal at the World Cup. His death notice was published as a short item in Népsport (People's Sport), eight days after he had died. He received little attention, even though he played by the rules. He never defected. He received permission to go to Africa, and there he caught a mysterious disease which caused his early death.

Bozsik Deserved the Farewell Honours

Still, Bozsik was paid his rightful last respects in 1978. Since he suffered from heart problems, he did not undertake being captain more than once. The brains of the mid-field, he was given a grand organised farewell. His coffin was carried by his teammates, and thousands of people could offer their condolences.

There was no chance at all to recognise Sándor Kocsis's merits, even though he had achieved fame in Barcelona, because he defected after the revolution. He plazed in the European Championship Cup in 1961. Previously, he had scored four goals against Wolverhampton, while playing with a broken shoulder.

Kocsis's Death a Suicide or an Accident?

Kocsis's death notice was published with a delay of three days. "Hungarian football player Sándor Kocsis, who played for Hungary 68 times, died under tragic circumstances and was buried in Barcelona on Tuesday,' reported Népsport. The obscure accident has yet to be clarified. It is still unknown whether he jumped out of the window of the Barcelona hospital on purpose. Or could it have been an accident? While he was waiting for his wife, he simply could have slipped and fallen - though, according to contemporary gossip, he could have been pushed out.

The Golden Team Line-up:

Gyula Grosics (1926-)
Jenő Buzánszky (1925-)
Gyula Lóránt (1923-1981)
Mihály Lantos (1928-1989)
József Bozsik (1925-1978)
József Zakariás (1924-1971)
László Budai (1928-1983)
Sándor Kocsis (1929-1979)
Nándor Hidegkuti (1922-2002)
Ferenc Puskás (1927-2006)
Zoltán Czibor (1929-1997)

Only four years later was it permitted to write about Kocsis, in the obituary of his forward mate László Budai. Though Budai was an integral member of the team, he was never deemed worthy of a separate biography. He was buried in Rákoskeresztúr without any formalities.

Europe Stunned at Lóránt's Death - Only Hungary Did Not Know

Gyula Lóránt had the most shocking death of anyone on the team. He died in Szaloniki, in 1981, suffering aheart attack on the substitute's bench. He team was playing a league match at the time. All Europe was astonished at the excellent full-back's death; nevertheless, not a single word could be published about him in his native country. As Lóránt's family lived in Germany at the time, he was laid to eternal rest in the small city of Endingen. Sports historian Pál Hencsei hastened to add that, after the transition, the proposition was raised to bring home his mortal remains and lay him to eternal rest in Budapest with the honours he deserved; however, his family did not approve.

Lantos passed away on New Year's Eve 1989, after the transition. At that time, Hungary had too many problems on its hands to give Lantos a dignified farewell.

Hidegkuti Paid Last Respects with Great Dignity

Zoltán Czibor, who returned to Hungary when it was already a democratic country, lived only a few years at home. He suffer from cancer, which defeated him in 1997. he was laid to eternal rest in his town of Komárom.

In 1998, the right-wing government realised the significance of the team, its unprecedented success, and that the four surviving members had garnered exceptional interntional fame. Nándor Hidegkuti, the first of the aforementioned four players to die, had achieved great international success as a coach. At his funeral, Sports Minister Tamás Deutsch delivered the eulogy, and the ceremony was broadcast live. Thousands followed the central forward, who scored three of the goals in the victory at Wembly, on his final journey to Óbuda Cemetery.

Puskás, having been last century's best-known Hungarian, is to receive a farewell on Saturday worthy of heroes and heads of state.

AThere are still two surviving team members: Gyula Grocsis (81) and Jenő Buzánszky (82).


Source: Index

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