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Now We Have Lost Our Puskás, Too


INDEX / Hungarian News Service
12 December 2006, 22:01

On Saturday, a national day of mourning, Ferenc Puskás, who passed away on 17 November, was commemorated. Among others, his one-time and still surviving teammates, the President of the Republic, President of the International Football Association (FIFA), former President of the National Olympic Committee (NOB), and György Szepesi bid farewell to the Sportsman of the Nation and one of the world's greatest footballers ever.

On the morning of 17 November, the national banner was raised and lowered to half-mast to signal the beginning of the national day of mourning in honour of Ferenc Puskás, who passed away at 79. Taking part in the event were the most important public dignitaries: President of the Constitutional Court Mihály Bihari, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, President of the Republic László Sólyom, President of Parliament Katalin Szili, and President of the Supreme Court Zoltán Lominci.

Few Were in the Stadium

The next item on the day's agenda was the "Nation's Farewell" in Puskás Stadium. The stadium opened at 2 p.m., but one hour before the beginning of the memorial, there were only three or four hundred in the stands.

The best-known Hungarian's catafalque was placed in the centre circle. At the players' exit was set up a black podium in the shape of a cross, from where the speakers bid farewell to Puskás. Also on this platform stood a bell, as well as six candle holders.

The mourners gathered slowly; however, in compliance with the organisers' request, those who arrived, bore candles.

Minutes before the ceremony began, there were still only four thousand, insultingly few, in the stands. Later the football players of National Divisions No. 1 and No. 2 proceeded to the track surrounding the field and stood there in single file for the duration of the ceremony.

Not long before the commencement, it was revealed that Pál Schmitt, Chairman of the Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) and President of the Ferenc Puskás Tribute Committee, who was admitted to hospital Friday morning with a heart complaint, would not be speaking at the memorial due to doctor's orders.

Candles were lit in the stands. Then, soldier from the National Guard removed the coffin from the catafalque.

The first speaker was Zoltán Novotny, who read out Pál Schmitt's address. The Hungarian Olympic Committee Chairman bid farewell to the Olympic champion, the sportsman, the man, to "everybody's 'Buddy' Puskás".

Schmitt's address conveyed that the expression "Thanks be to God" now had meaning. "Thanks for giving us Hungarians this genius, that he came to be in our country, so we could savour the words Puskás and Hungarian."

"He played on all five continents of the Earth, but everywhere he remained a tough guy from Kispest, a Hungarian. The called him 'Speedy Major' and 'Little Cannon', but for us he was Buddy. We can all be proud of him, all 15 million of us," wrote Schmitt.

Then, György Szepesi, the radio reporter and former football association president, spoke in the name of the friends. "I speak from the edge of the field about one of the legends of this magical game. We remember one of Hungary's greatest sons. I give thanks that I could be with you and broadcast your wonderful playing." Szepesi ended his address with the words, "As football is eternal, Buddy Puskás's memory will also live on forever."

Another Star Shining in the Sky

Ramon Calderon, President of Real Madrid, called Puskás a role model. "All Spain is sad, because Puskás contributed to making our team shine throughout the world. He is a role model for all children and a hero in Europe, Spain, and his homeland. Ferenc's memory for us is unforgettable."

It was a moving moment when Ferenc Puskás sang the song entitled "My Father Was in a Singing Mood" in a vintage Spanish clip. Meanwhile, couples danced around the catafalque.

Angel Maria Villar, President of the Spanish Football Association, bid a sad farewell on behalf of the large family of European football. He recalled how Puskás, as a powerful individual on the football field, united a then divided Europe.

In the name of the Golden Team's two surviving members, Jenő Buzánszky bid farewell to Ferenc Puskás. The one-time player on the Golden Team called his former teammate a genius. He stressed that Puskás remained a great human being his entire life, further adding that the heart of a nation and the entire world was aching. "May you meet the members of the team in Heaven!" continued Buzánszky's address, which he gave on his own behalf and that of Gyula Grosics. He concluded, "Another star is shining in the sky. For us, you are the brightest star."

The Ferenc Demjén song "There Has to Be a Final Word" played as members of the National Guard removed Ferenc Puskás's coffin from the catafalque and placed it on the gun carriage.

At that point, the stadium resounded, as it had many times before, with the chant "Buddy Puskás, Buddy Puskás!" The coffin made a round of the stadium's track as the bell tolled.

The funeral procession proceeded to Heroes' Square, where Puskás, who had been promoted to the rank of brigadier general, received a farewell with military honours. Tamás Szabó, brigadier general and army chaplain, consecrated the coffin. Then, the procession continued towards Saint Stephen's Basilica.

Sólyom: Together We Can Be Proud

President of the Republic László Sólyom delivered a speech in front of the basilica.

The president emphasized that Ferenc Puskás was richly blessed with talents. "The entire world knew him and loved him." In the development of those talents there was also an element of luck, he expressed, further expounding that football is a common language that everyone in the world understands.

The president emphasized that Ferenc Puskás was richly blessed with talents. "The entire world knew him and loved him." In the development of those talents there was also an element of luck, he expressed, further expounding that football is a common language that everyone in the world understands.

"In his field of activity, it is real accomplishment that counts. He did not become famous on account of his scandals, but on account of his playing. He gave much to us Hungarians. In a dark period of our history, he brought pride and joy to the Hungarians. Let us realise once more that it is good to give," said the statesman. "He became a connecting link between people, a positive rallying call in the world, and he lives on, even after he has stopped playing. The young are pleased to find a national legend in Puskás. He who gives of himself, unifies Mankind. This final farewell brings the people together and reminds us that together we can be proud. We are capable of it even now," László Sólyom concluded.

Afterwards, László Kiss-Rigó, the local bishop for Szeged-Csanád County, performed the Catholic funeral service.

Where the Referee Never Makes the Wrong Call

"The Captain of All Leagues has called Puskás off the field, not in order to replace him, but to have him play in another league where there are no losers and no winners. Our job now is to count him among the chosen," ran the county bishop's words.

According to László Kiss-Rigó's sermon, the words of the gospel could be interpreted, "Those who play on my side, I will select for the eternal team, where the referee never makes an incorrect judgment and the joy of the game comes above all."

Grosics, Samaranch, Blatter, and Kisteleki Bid Farewell

Gyula Grosics, the Golden Team goal-keeper; György Szöllősi, editor of the book Puskás and spokesman for the tribute committee; Péter Bozsik, former league captain; Lajos Détári, league coach; Franz Beckenbauer, president of the organising committee for the summer world championship in Germany; and Imre Gellei, former league captain and lead coach for Ferencváros – each in a sentence said goodbye to the legendary footballer.

Afterwards, László Tőkés, the local bishop for Királyhágó-Mellék County, and Mónika Lamperth, Minister of Sport Affairs for Municipal and Regional Development, spoke.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, former leader and honorary chairman of the National Olympic Committee (NOB), and Joseph Blatter, President of the International Football Association (FIFA), gave speeches, followed by István Kisteleki, President of the Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ).

Rest in Peace

At the close of the farewell ceremony, the bells tolled continuously as the coffin was carried into the crypt, where Ferenc Puskás was laid to eternal rest in the presence of family members and invited friends.


Source: Index

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