David Beckham and Ronaldo, among Real
Madrid's $300 million soccer players known as ``Galacticos,'' are
raising money for one of the Spanish club's original stars.
Real Madrid, Europe's record nine-time soccer champion, is in Budapest
to play an exhibition game Aug. 14 against the national team, in honor
of Ferenc Puskas, Hungary captain in the 1950s and a Madrid striker as
the club dominated the continent.
Puskas, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, ``was Madrid's Hungarian
Galactico,'' said Eduardo Pena, 75, a Real Madrid director from 1995 to
1999 who also witnessed Puskas's nine-year stint on the Spanish team, in
a telephone interview. ``We were astounded by his technique, fantastic
left foot and powerful shot.''
Puskas, 78, entered soccer history by captaining the first foreign team
to beat England at its home stadium in London, in 1953, and then helping
Real extend its European winning streak after joining the club in 1958
following his defection from communism. The Budapest-born goal-scorer
was named among the 10 best players in history by FIFA, world soccer's
His former Real teammates will also be at the Ferenc Puskas stadium in
Budapest to watch the match. They include Alfredo di Stefano, whose
three goals to Puskas's four led to the 7-3 defeat of Eintracht
Frankfurt and the lifting of the 1960 European Cup in Glasgow in front
of 130,000 people.
Proceeds of the match will go to pay Puskas's healthcare bills. Puskas
himself may be unable to attend the match due to his ill health, Gyorgy
Szilvassy, a spokesman for the Hungarian football association, said in a
Two-thirds of 45,000 tickets for the game, starting at 7 p.m. local time,
were sold on the first day and a ``few thousand'' remain. Real Madrid
will hold an open practice the day before for fans who can't attend the
game, Szilvassy said.
``It will be a gala, Real will show off their silky skills,'' said
Zoltan Korpas, 34, a recruitment consultant who is attending the match.
``Puskas was a phenomenon, a football genius. He was a scoundrel in the
good sense and has become a historic figure,'' he said in a telephone
Sports daily Nemzeti Sport published stories about the match every day
for the past two weeks. Nepszabadsag, Hungary's largest- circulation
political newspaper, had 14 articles since the game was announced June
To Hungarians, Puskas is best known for leading the squad called the ``Aranycsapat''
or ``Golden Team,'' after winning the 1952 Olympics. A year later they
beat England 6-3 in London before winning 7-1 in the return match in
Budapest in 1954, still England's heaviest ever defeat.
Puskas's 83 goals in 84 appearances for Hungary was the most prolific
record in international soccer until last year. Iran's Ali Daei now
holds that honor, with 87 goals. Pele of Brazil had 77 international
goals in his career.
1954 Final Loss
It wasn't all success. Hungary traveled to the World Cup in Switzerland
in 1954 as favorite. In the final against West Germany, Puskas's squad
surrendered a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2.
While the defeat demolished the Hungarians' invincibility after four
unbeaten years, it didn't affect Puskas's place in international soccer
In 1956, the uprising against Soviet domination in Hungary culminated in
Russian tanks rolling through Budapest and the break- up of the Golden
team. Puskas never played for Hungary again. He signed with Real Madrid
in 1958 and later gained Spanish citizenship and national team honors.
In Spain, his left foot earned him the nickname ``Canoncito Pum,'' or
the ``the little cannon that goes boom.'' He netted 324 goals in 372
games for Real, ending the season as Spain's top scorer on four
``He was terrific, strong, unstoppable,'' Nilton Santos, 80, who won the
1958 World Cup with Brazil and played in a defeat to Hungary four years
earlier, said in a phone interview from his home in Araruama, north of
Rio de Janeiro.
Puskas, affectionately called ``Ocsi,'' or ``little brother,'' by
Hungarians, was allowed to move back to Hungary in 1993. He became
manager of the national squad and was later plastered on billboards
His 70th birthday party four years later was a national event. The
69,000-capacity Nepstadion arena in Budapest, built by the communist
government to showpiece the Golden Team of Puskas, was renamed in his
honor in 2001.