Basilica burial for Hungarian soccer legend

One of the world's most famous soccer players, Hungarian Ferenc Puskas, who captained the famed Magical Magyars national team in the 1950s, was buried on Saturday in Budapest's St Stephen's Basilica.

BBC News reports that the legendary Puskas, 79, died last month following a long illness. Several thousand mourners gathered and lit candles outside the basilica where a Mass was celebrated for Puskas who was later buried in the crypt of St Stephen's Basilica.

Puskas' funeral ended a day of national mourning in the country.

Earlier on Saturday, thousands of people - including Hungarian leaders and famous footballers - gathered for the memorial service at the national stadium, renamed after Puskas.

Puskas flag-draped coffin was placed on a specially-erected black pyramid in the centre of the pitch amidst a sea of candles in the stands.

In a ring around the pitch, footballers and sportsmen and women from all over Hungary stood to attention with the names of their teams.

Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon and former Germany's football great Franz Beckenbauer were among those who came to pay their last respects Puskas.

"He was a true friend and sportsperson, on the pitch as well as off," Jeno Buzanszky, one of the last two surviving members of the famous Hungarian national team in the 1950s.

"From now on, there is one fewer star on earth, but one more star shines in the heavens," he said.

Puskas captained Hungary's famed Magical Magyars national team in the 1950s and was a prolific goalscorer. He also played for Spain's Real Madrid.

Puskas moved to Spain after Hungary's failed 1956 revolt against the Soviet rule.

He became a major goal-scorer for Real Madrid in the 1960s and returned to Hungary in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Puskas has been described as "the best-known Hungarian of the 20th century" by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.

Acording to the BBC, the Hungarian team under Puskas ignited a global revolution in the way football was played, leading to a new emphasis on individual skills and goal-scoring.

Hungary salutes footballer Puskas (BBC News, 9/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Ferenc Puskás (Wikipedia)
St Stephen's Basilica (Wikipedia)

11 Dec 2006