Hungary | Ferenc Puskás dies, aged 79

At Real Madrid, which Puskás joined in 1958 following a two-year UEFA ban instigated by the Hungarian football association, he began at 31 a second phase to his playing career and the phase that gained him the most notoriety. According to György Szöllósi, author of Puskás (Budapest, 2005), the unplanned move to Spain forced the player out of his comfort zone. He lost some 40 lbs. and “had to become a real professional” (Márton Dinnyés, “Restoring the Puskás Legend,” uefa.com, 17 Nov 06), at the same time conscious that he was being used as a negative exemplar by propagandistic media at home. He was labeled fat, a smuggler, a deserter; then, use of his name was censored, banned from mention in the official press for 15 years.

Yet supporters at home could still follow his exploits and the European dominance of Real Madrid via Radio Free Europe and the BBC World Service. For Madrid, Puskás scored 324 goals in 372 games in all competitions, providing the finishing touch for creators Alfredo Di Stéfano, Francisco Gento and Luis Del Sol. Accounts vary concerning the number of games and goals to his credit, although for both Madrid and Kispest he came close to a goal per game over his career. He scored 83 goals in 84 games for Hungary and, after gaining Spanish citizenship, played four international matches for Spain (three at the 1962 World Cup) without scoring.

Puskás helped Real Madrid to three European Cups, the most notorious before 130,000 at Hampden Park in Glasgow in 1960 (see Hugh McIlvanney, “McIlvanney Reports from Hampden, 1960,” The Scotsman, 18 Nov 06). Puskás scored four times in a 7–3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt that readers commenting on McIlvanney’s account recall had long-lasting effects on the game in Scotland. Football clubs received a tape of the match to show as an expression of the game’s ideal. The game featured during film nights at community centers (brief clips appear at the Real Madrid website; registration required).

Puskás made one of his final public appearances at Hampden Park in May 2002 at the Champions League final between, appropriately, Real Madrid and another German side, Bayer Leverkusen. As Hughes of the International Herald Tribune remembers, Puskás arrived with a doctor and nurse as companions, with the sense already having dawned that Puskás “will not know where he is or why he is here.” Yet Hughes sensed a flicker of recognition in Puskás’s face after Zinédine Zidane swiveled home a game-winner for Madrid.

The goal was a volley, left-footed, from outside the penalty area, with extraordinary power and timing. It was almost a replica of one scored by Puskás in that same stadium wearing the same shirt 42 years earlier.

Mexico | Sánchez accepts naturalized players

Named coach of Mexico on Nov 16, former Mexico and Real Madrid striker Hugo Sánchez said he would consider naturalized Mexicans, despite having objected to former coach Ricardo La Volpe‘s policy of including non-natives. (Reuters, 17 Nov 06)

Miguel Juan, 35, with, from left, children Andres, 4, Maria, 5, Rosenda, 2, and Margarita, 3. (Michael Wetzel | The Decatur Daily)

USA | Hispanics find ‘home’ in Decatur, Ala., soccer leagues

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