Top Sports Betting Money Management Which Can't Be Ignored!

This game's sleazy monetization is trying to toy with your brain. Don't fall prey to it.

I get the game is F2P, and I understand they have to make money. At first, I was pretty disappointed about bundle prices because I believed (and still do) that they were too high. I get their tactic here, it's to target the wealthy, and hopefully, down the line, small fries like the major player base will get a fair deal. It isn't only the bundles which target the wealthy, however. To preface this, I will say also that no western, successful F2P game has pay-to-win.
This game has the sleaziest monetization of any F2P I've ever played. I thought it would get better over time, but my hope has dwindled after Joe Lee's (RiotSWAGGERNAU7) statement regarding the battle-pass in Ask VALORANT #1. I would also like to say that managing monetization is this man's job. If you're going to get mad at anyone, get mad at the greedy guys at the top, not at him or the revenue team.
No VP in the battle-pass. Interesting strategy. Here is what he had to say.
Our goal is that when you buy a battle pass, you buy it for the total value of it rather than buying it as a way of getting enough currency to buy the next one. We want the battle pass to be the highest value product we offer as well as a compelling experience...
This statement seems pretty genuine, but when you actually view the battle-pass beyond its face value, what they have done is pretty manipulative, and such manipulation is further demonstrated in the second half of his statement (which I'll cover after).
Here is an image of VP and RP prices (I am in Australia, so prices will be different and the VP in each may be different, but the manipulation is a constant).
Radianite points (RP) is the second of two paid currencies, I'll call it semi-premium because of their absolutely insulting prices, but I would also like to say you can earn a considerable amount in-game (that however, does not detract from its egregiousness). You have to buy VP first, and of course, they made it so you can't buy exact amounts, you've gotta use the packs. They also put these little "-x%" next to each tier of RP because oh boy, if it wasn't a steal already it's gotta be a steal now. /s It is insulting. 10 RP goes from around $10AUD to $15AUD, so you're pretty much best case scenario paying 10 bucks for an upgrade for a skin you've already bought (the upgradeable skins on their own btw, are $30AUD). Explained succinctly and pretty much perfectly by u/schemeKC, "Radianite is priced astronomically high to artificially inflate its perceived value". That's where Mr. Lee's statement comes in.
Mr. Lee wants you to buy the battle-pass for "its total value". And jeez, the battle-pass must be good because of all that juicy Radianite which boosts its perceived value a fuckton. So after you finish the BP, you've got a nice amount of skins (none of which can be upgraded with RP). You've got this pile of RP leftover and it is just staring at you. The only way to use that RP though, is to spend even more money. Other F2P games give you premium currency for BPs months on end for free, and this game strips that away so you could be spending $10 every act, then coerces you to spend even more because of the RP you've been given. The way this statement was delivered to try and convince you that you were getting a good deal, now shows that this isn't something under the rug (to be felt not seen), it has been said by a real person. Any goodwill has been thrown out the window, and the player's intellect has been insulted. I hope that wasn't his intention, but that is exactly how it came across imo.
VP can only be bought in really inconveniencing amounts, a tactic mostly used in mobile games but hey, it's 2020. Small indie dev needs to survive right? /s It is annoying for every player, and these tiers are worse than any F2P game I've ever played.
If I wanted to buy 20 RP, I'd need to buy the 2175 VP pack and that would roughly equate to $15AUD per 10 RP. You can only use RP on paid skins (there are barely any free skins anyway). But let's say I want to buy the big boy 80 RP pack, ooh what value and it's 40% off! I would need to buy the 5800 VP pack for $80AUD and that would be around $10AUD per 10 RP if I were only buying RP. I need to buy another bundle to get an upgradeable skin, that sucks! I'll get the 1025 VP pack for $15 so I can buy a prime classic. That's $95AUD you've paid to get and upgrade a single skin (I'm not counting the RP you get for free for the purposes of demonstrating the confusion they have imbued within this model).
This is a small demonstration of obfuscation. The system is designed to make you pay more and more and more until... oh. I still have some VP left, and I can get another skin! Let me pay just this little bit more. I think my bank balance might be negative. A single prime skin without any of its variants is at least $30AUD unless you buy the big boy bundles, but then you've obviously spent more than 30 bucks. It is designed to confuse the player into purchasing the highest value pack so they don't have to think, and if I'm being honest I haven't seen mobile games this cunning. This is malicious, and kind of impressive in a super fucked up way.
The second half of his statement talks about the future of Radianite, and again, further attempts to display that "it's a great deal!" The revenue team wants RP to be "the evolving currency of VALORANT". They want this overpriced, huge pile of inflated pixels to be the next big thing. The RP you got for free can't be used for free, and honestly with the way this monetization is panning out I don't expect it ever to be used as such (despite what's said in the next few sentences, we've seen in the past a number of popular suggestions being thrown to the wind).
An auto-renewable battle-pass in any game is designed to respect the player's time. If I see a game I love with an auto-renewable pass, actively rewarding me for spending time with the game after a one time purchase, you'd better bet your top dollar I will spend more. This system does not respect your time, it constantly probes you to spend more and more. Riot obviously didn't design this system with morals in mind, and there are certainly way more subtle additions that I didn't catch.
So pretty much, this package has overpriced bundles and skins, psychologically manipulative RP, layers of obfuscation for all monetization - but hey, it's F2P! People who pay, they're suckers. Let their wealth be sapped for trying to support the devs. obligatory /s
For a developer that has such strong ties to its community, these sort of manipulative business practices sour our perception. Even EA, after the Battlefront 2 fiasco completely removed loot-boxes and to a further extent, even microtransactions from everything but their sports games and AL. They tried to improve their reputation by investing in more indie devs and actually supporting them. Riot has done nothing.
I know this post won't make them change their system. We have seen that they closed the door to the battle-pass changing after huge community outcry, and haven't at all changed the scummy Radianite, in fact, they've stated they are going to double down. But if we double down on our critique of the system we can be sure they will at least discuss it down the line. Your voice matters, probably not as much as your wallet though haha. Safeguard that shit from exploitation.
If and when you decide to purchase something here, a good question would probably be whether this company actually respects your purchasing decision. As it stands, my feet are firmly glued to the "no" side of the fence.
tl;dr - the game uses shady microtransaction design to confuse and fool players, then asks them to spend more money after stripping away common features of an established battle-pass model, completely failing to respect/reward their consumers' money/time.
submitted by IllumiMahdi to VALORANT [link] [comments]

The truth behind Puskás Akadémia FC - How Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán stole a legend, built a stadium in his backyard and guided his team to Europe

The 2019/2020 season of the Hungary’s National Football League (NB1) – being one of the first leagues to restart play - came to an end on 27 June. If a casual observer (for whatever reason) decides to check out the final standings, he would be not surprised at the first two positions: record-champion Ferencváros defended their title, while regional powerhouse Fehérvár (Videoton) came in second. However, the third place team, Puskás Akadémia FC might seem unusual and one could think that there is a story behind that. Is there a team named after Ferenc Puskás? Did some academy youths make an incredible run for the Europa League qualification? Well, the observer is right, there is a story behind all this, but it’s absolutely not a fun story. It’s a story about how one powerful man’s obsession with football stole a legend, misused state funds and killed the spirit of Hungarian football. (Warning: this is a long story, feel free to scroll down for a tl;dr. Also, I strongly advise checking out the links, those images are worth seeing).
Naturally, political influence in football has been present ever since the dawn of the sport and we know of numerous state leaders who felt confident enough to use their influence to ensure the successful development of their favored clubs – Caucescu’s FC Olt Scornicesti and Erdogan’s Basaksehir are well-known examples of such attempts. However, I fear that very few of the readers are aware of the fact that Puskás Akadémia FC is nothing but Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s grandiose project for establishing his hometown’s club as one of the country’s top teams. Considering that Orbán managed to achieve this goal using state funds in an EU member democracy in the 2000s, one might even say that it might be one of the most impressive attempts of cheating your way through Football Manager in real life. Now that Puskás Akadémia FC escaped the desolate football scene of Hungary and is getting ready for the European takeover, I feel that it’s high time to tell its true story.

Part 1: Part time striker, part time PM

Our story begins in 1999 when the 36-year-old striker Viktor Orbán (recently elected as the country’s Prime Minister) was signed by the sixth-tier side of Felcsút FC residing in rural Fejér County. It might sound surprising that an active politician would consider such a side job, but given that Orbán has been playing competitive low-level football throughout his whole life and has always been known as a keen football enthusiast, people seemed to be okay with his choice for a hobby. Orbán spent most of his childhood in the village of Felcsút (population: 1,800), so it seemed only natural that he would join the team after one of his old-time acquaintances became team president there.
Orbán’s arrival to the club seemed to work like a charm as Felcsút FC immediately earned a promotion to the fifth league. The Prime Minister’s busy program did not allow him to attend every training session and game but Orbán did make an effort to contribute as much as possible on the field – there is a report of a government meeting being postponed as Orbán was unavailable due to attending Felcsút FC’s spring training camp. The 2001/2002 season brought another breakthrough for the side as Felcsút was promoted to the national level of the football pyramid after being crowned the champion of Fejér County. Sadly enough for Orbán, he suffered a defeat on another pitch – his party lost the 2002 election and Orbán was forced to move to an opposition role.
No matter what happened on the political playing field, Orbán would not abandon his club. Just before the 2002 elections, Felcsút was surprisingly appointed as one of the regional youth development centers by the Hungarian FA. Orbán continued contributing on the field as well (he had more spare time after all) but his off-the-field efforts provided much more value for the team as he used his political influence to convince right-wing businessmen that they should definitely get sponsorship deals done with the fourth-division village team.
Club management was able to transform the influx of funds into on-field success: Felcsút FC was promoted to the third division in 2004 and achieved promotion to the second division in 2005. Although these new horizons required a skill level that an aging ex-PM is not likely to possess, Orbán regularly played as a late game sub and even appeared in cup games against actual professional opponents. The now-42-year old Orbán did not want to face the challenge of the second division, so he retired in 2005 – but this did not stop him from temping as an assistant coach when the head coach was sacked in the middle of the 2005-2006 season.
Success on the playing field did not translate to political success: Orbán lost the elections once again in 2006. However, this was only a temporary loss: the ruling party committed blunder after blunder and by early 2007 it became absolutely obvious that Orbán would be able return to power in 2010. Now confident in his political future, Orbán opted for the acceleration of football development in Felcsút – by late 2007 he took over the presidency of the club to take matters in his own hands. Sponsors seeking to gain favor with the soon-to-be PM were swarming Felcsút FC, so the club was able to stand very strong in an era where financial stability was a very rare sight in the Hungarian football scene, accumulating three medals (but no promotion) between 2007 and 2009.
On the other hand, Orbán realized the value of youth development as well, and started a local foundation for this purpose back in 2004 that gathered funds for the establishment a boarding school-like football academy. The academy opened its doors in September 2006 (only the second of such institutions in the country) and Orbán immediately took upon the challenge of finding an appropriate name for the academy.
He went on to visit the now very sick Ferenc Puskás in the hospital to discuss using his name, but as Puskás’ medical situation was deteriorating rapidly, communication attempts were futile. Luckily enough Puskás’ wife (and soon to be widow) was able to act on his incapable husband’s behalf and approved the naming deal in a contract. According to the statement, naming rights were granted without compensation, as “Puskás would have certainly loved what’s happening down in Felcsút”. However, there was much more to the contract: Puskás’ trademark was handed to a sports journalist friend of Orbán (György Szöllősi, also acting communications director of the academy) who promised a hefty annual return for the family (and also a 45% share of the revenue for himself). Ferenc Puskás eventually died on 17 November 2006 and on 26 November 2006 the football academy was named after him: Puskás Academy was born.
Orbán shared his vision of the whole organization after the opening ceremony: “It’s unreasonable to think that Felcsút should have a team in the top division. We should not flatter ourselves, our players and our supporters with this dream. Our long term ambition is the creation of a stable second division team that excels in youth development and provides opportunity for the talents of the future.” Let’s leave that there.

Part 2: No stadium left behind

Orbán became PM once again in April 2010 after a landslide victory that pretty much granted him unlimited power. He chased lots of political agendas but one of his policies was rock solid: he would revive sports (and especially football) that was left to bleed out by the previous governments. The football situation in 2010 was quite dire: while the national team has actually made some progress in the recent years and has reached the 42nd position in the world rankings, football infrastructure was in a catastrophic state. Teams were playing in rusty stadiums built in the communist era, club finances were a mess, youth teams couldn’t find training grounds and the league was plagued by violent fan groups and lackluster attendance figures (3100 average spectators per game in the 2009/2010 season).
Orbán – aided by the FA backed by business actors very interested in making him happy – saw the future in the total rebuild of the football infrastructure. Vast amounts of state development funds were invested into the football construction industry that warmly welcomed corruption, cost escalation and shady procurement deals. In the end, money triumphed: over the last decade, new stadiums sprung out from nothing all over the country, dozens of new academies opened and pitches for youth development appeared on practically every corner. The final piece of the stadium renovation program was the completion of the new national stadium, Puskás Aréna in 2019 (estimated cost: 575 million EUR). Orbán commemorated this historic moment with a celebratory video on his social media that features a majestic shot of Orbán modestly kicking a CGI ball from his office to the new stadium.
Obviously, Orbán understood that infrastructure alone won’t suffice. He believed in the idea that successful clubs are the cornerstone of a strong national side as these clubs would compete in a high quality national league (and in international tournaments) that would require a constant influx of youth players developed by the clubs themselves. However, Orbán was not really keen on sharing the state’s infinite wealth with private club owners who failed to invest in their clubs between 2002 and 2010. The club ownership takeover was not that challenging as previous owners were usually happy to cut their losses, and soon enough most clubs came under Orbán’s influence. Some clubs were integrated deep into Orbán’s reach (Ferencváros and MTK Budapest club presidents are high ranking officials of Orbán’s party) while in other cases, indirect control was deemed sufficient (Diósgyőri VTK was purchased by a businessman as an attempt to display loyalty to Orbán).
Pouring taxpayer money into infrastructure (stadium) projects is relatively easy: after all, we are basically talking about overpriced government construction projects, there’s nothing new there. On the other hand, allocating funds to clubs that should be operating on a competitive market is certainly a tougher nut to crack. The obvious solutions were implemented: the state media massively overpaid for broadcasting rights and the national sports betting agency also pays a hefty sum to the FA, allowing for a redistribution of considerable amounts. However, given that the income side of Hungarian clubs was basically non-existent (match day income is negligible, the failed youth development system does not sell players), an even more radical solution was desperately needed. Also, there was definite interest in the development of a tool that would allow for differentiation between clubs (as in the few remaining non-government affiliated clubs should not receive extra money).
The solution came in 2011: the so-called TAO (“társasági adó” = corporate tax) system was introduced, granting significant tax deductions for companies if they offered a portion of their profits to sports clubs – however, in theory, funds acquired through TAO can be only used for youth development and infrastructure purposes. Soon enough, it became apparent that state authorities were not exactly interested in the enforcement of these restrictions, so some very basic creative accounting measures enabled clubs to use this income for anything they wanted to. Companies were naturally keen on cutting their tax burdens and scoring goodwill with the government, so TAO money immediately skyrocketed. Opportunistic party strongmen used their influence to convince local business groups to invest in the local clubs, enabling for the meteoric rise of multiple unknown provincial teams (Mezőkövesd [pop: 16,000], Kisvárda [pop: 16,000], Balmazújváros [pop: 17,000]) into the first division.
Although it’s not the main subject of this piece, I feel inclined to show you the actual results of Orbán’s grandiose football reform. While we do have our beautiful stadiums, we don’t exactly get them filled – league attendance has stagnated around 3000 spectators per game throughout the whole decade. We couldn’t really move forward with our national team either: Hungary lost 10 positions in the FIFA World Rankings throughout Orbán’s ten years. On the other hand, the level of league has somewhat improved – Videoton and Ferencváros reached the Europa League group stage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Too bad that the Instat-based top team of 2019/2020 Hungarian league consists of 10 foreigners and only 1 Hungarian: the goalkeeper.

Part 3: Small place, big game!

As seen in the previous chapter, Orbán did have a strong interest in the improvement of the football situation Hungary, but we shouldn’t forget that his deepest interest and true loyalty laid in the wellbeing of Felcsút and its academy. Now that Orbán had limitless means to see to the advancement of his beloved club, he got to work immediately. Orbán handed over formal club management duties to his friend / protégé / middleman / businessman Lőrinc Mészáros in 2010, but no questions would ever arise of who is actually calling the shots.
First of all, no club can exist without a proper stadium. Although in 2011 Orbán explicitly stated that “Felcsút does not need a stadium as stadiums belong to cities”, no one was really surprised in 2012 when the construction of the Felcsút stadium was announced. Orbán was generous enough to donate the lands just in front of his summer home in the village for the project, locating the entrance a mere ten meters away from his residence. Construction works for the stunningly aesthetic 3,800-seater arena (in a village of 1,800 people) started in April 2012 and were completed in April 2014, making Felcsút’s arena the second new stadium of Orbán’s gigantic stadium revival program.
The estimated budget of the construction was 120 million EUR (31,500 EUR / seat) was financed by the Puskás Academy who explicitly stated that they did not use government funds for the project. Technically, this statement is absolutely true as the construction was financed through the TAO money offered by the numerous companies looking for tax deduction and Orbán’s goodwill. However, technically, this means that the country’s budget was decreased by 120 million EUR unrealized tax revenue. Naturally, the gargantuan football stadium looks ridiculously out of place in the small village, but there’s really no other way to ensure that your favorite team’s stadium is within 20 seconds of walking distance from your home.
Obviously, a proper club should also have some glorious history. Felcsút was seriously lagging behind on this matter as though Felcsút FC was founded in 1931, it spent its pre-Orbán history in the uninspiring world of the 5th-7th leagues of the country. Luckily enough, Orbán had already secured Puskás’ naming rights and they were not afraid to use it, so Felcsút FC was renamed to Puskás Academy FC in 2009. The stadium name was a little bit problematic as the Hungarian national stadium in Budapest had sadly had the dibs on Puskás’ name, so they had to settle with Puskás’ Spanish nickname, resulting in the inauguration of the Pancho Arena. But why stop here? Orbán’s sports media strongman György Szöllősi acted upon the contract with Puskás’ widow and transferred all Puskás’ personal memorabilia (medals, jerseys, correspondence) to the most suitable place of all: a remote village in which Puskás never even set foot in.
While the off-field issues were getting resolved, Orbán’s attention shifted to another important area: the actual game of football. Although academy players started to graduate from 2008 on, it very soon became painfully obvious that the academy program couldn’t really maintain even a second division side for now. In 2009, Orbán reached an agreement with nearby Videoton’s owner that effectively transformed Felcsút FC into Videoton’s second team under the name of Videoton – Puskás Akadémia FC. The mutually beneficent agreement would allow Videoton to give valuable playing time to squad players while it could also serve as a skipping step for Puskás Academy’s fresh graduates to a first league team. The collaboration resulted in two mid-table finishes and a bronze medal in the second division in the following three seasons that wasn’t really impressive compared to Felcsút FC’s standalone seasons.
It seemed that the mixture of reserve Videoton players and academy youth was simply not enough for promotion, and although Orbán had assured the public multiple times that his Felcsút project was not aiming for the top flight, very telling changes arose after the 2011/2012 season. Felcsút terminated the Videoton cooperation deal and used the rapidly accumulating TAO funds to recruit experienced players for the now independently operating Puskás Academy FC (PAFC). The new directive worked almost too well: PAFC won its division with a 10 point lead in its first standalone year which meant that they would have to appear in the first league prior to the completion of their brand-new Pancho Arena. Too bad that this glorious result had almost nothing to do with the academy - only two players were academy graduates of the side’s regular starting XI.
Orbán did not let himself bothered with the ridiculousness of an academy team with virtually no academy players being promoted to the first division as he stated that “a marathon runner shouldn’t need to explain why the other runners were much slower than him”. Orbán also displayed a rare burst of modesty as he added that “his team’s right place is not in the first league, and they will soon be overtaken by other, better sides”.
The promotion of PAFC to the first division made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Supporter groups were united in hatred all along the league and not surprisingly, away fans almost always outnumbered the home side at PAFC’s temporary home at Videoton’s Sóstói Stadium (demolished and rebuilt in its full glory since then). One of the teams, however, possessed an extraordinary degree of anger against PAFC: supporters of Budapest Honvéd – the only Hungarian team in which Ferenc Puskás played – felt especially awkward about the transfer of their club legend’s heritage to Felcsút. Tensions spiked at the PAFC – Honvéd game when home security forced Honvéd supporters to remove the “Puskás” part of their traditional “Puskás – Kispest – Hungary” banner – the team answered the insult with style as they secured a 4-0 victory supported by fans chanting “you can’t buy legends”.
Despite Orbán’s prognosis, other better sides did not rush to overtake his team, so PAFC, now residing in their brand new Pancho Arena, came through with a 14th and a 10th place in their first two seasons. Naturally, conspiracy theories began to formulate, speculating that government-friendly owners would certainly not be motivated to give their best against PAFC. However, as the league size was reduced to 12 for the 2015/2016 season, PAFC found themselves in a dire situation just before the final round: they needed a win and needed rival Vasas to lose against MTK in order to avoid relegation. PAFC’s draw seemed to be unlucky as they faced their arch-enemy Honvéd at home, but Honvéd displayed an absolute lackluster effort – fueling conspiracy theories – and lost the fixture 2 to 1 against a home side featuring four academy players. Vasas, however, did not disappoint, their 2-0 victory resulted in PAFC’s elimination and a very relaxed sigh all over the football community.
PAFC’s relegation seemed to be in accordance with Orbán’s 2013 statement, so public opinion supposed for a while that Orbán’s project came to a halting point and the Academy would go on to actually field academy players in the second division (especially as rostering foreign players was prohibited in the lower leagues). However, if you have read through this point, you know better than to expect Orbán to retreat – obviously, PAFC came back with a bang. With a ballsy move, PAFC didn’t even sell their foreign players, they just loaned them across the league, promising them that they would be able to return next year to the newly promoted team. The promise was kept as PAFC went into another shopping spree of experienced players (easily convincing lots of them to choose the second division instead of the first) and easily won the second league.
Orbán – now aware of his negligence – opted for the doubling the team’s budget, making PAFC the third most well-founded club in the whole country (only coming short to his friend’s Videoton and his party minion’s Ferencváros). With an actual yearly influx from TAO money in the ballpark of 30-40 million EUR, PAFC management had to really work wonders in creative accounting in order to make their money look somewhat legitimate. The books were now full of ridiculous items like:
Naturally, in the country of no consequences, absolutely nothing happened: PAFC went on with its spending and signed 35 foreigners between 2017 and 2020. They did so because they could not hope to field a winning team in the first league consisting of academy players, despite the fact that Puskás Academy has been literally drowning in money since 2007. This seems to somewhat contradict Orbán’s 2013 promise, stating that “Puskás Academy will graduate two or three players to major European leagues each year”. To be fair, there have been players who managed to emerge to Europe (well, exactly two of them: Roland Sallai plays at Freiburg, László Kleinheisler played at Werder Bremen) but most academy graduates don’t even have the slightest the chance to make their own academy’s pro team as it’s full of foreigners and more experienced players drawn for other teams’ programs.
Despite their unlimited funding, PAFC could not put up a top-tier performance in their first two years back in the first division, finishing 6th and 7th in the 12-team league. Many speculated that the lack of support, motivation and even a clear team mission did not allow for chemistry to develop within the multinational and multi-generational locker room. Consistency was also a rare sight on the coaching side: club management was absolutely impatient with coaches who were very easily released after a single bad spell and there were talks of on-field micromanagement request coming from as high as Orbán.
Even so, their breakthrough came dangerously close in 2018 as PAFC performed consistently well in the cup fixtures and managed to reach the final. Their opponent, Újpest played an incredibly fierce game and after a 2-2 draw, they managed to defeat PAFC in the shootout. Football fans sighed in relief throughout the country as ecstatic Újpest supporters verbally teased a visibly upset Orbán in his VIP lounge about his loss.
Obviously, we could only delay the inevitable. While this year’s PAFC side seemed to be more consistent than its predecessors, it seemed that they won’t be able to get close to the podium - they were far behind the obvious league winner duo of Ferencváros and Videoton and were trailing third-place Mezőkövesd 6 points just before the pandemic break. However, both Mezőkövesd and PAFC’s close rivals DVTK and Honvéd fall flat after the restart while PAFC was able to maintain its good form due to its quality roster depth. PAFC overtook Mezőkövesd after the second-to-last round as Mezőkövesd lost to the later relegated Debrecen side. (Mezőkövesd coach Attila Kuttor was fined harshly because of his post-game comments on how the FA wants PAFC to finish third.)
PAFC faced Honvéd in the last round once again, and as Honvéd came up with its usual lackluster effort, PAFC secured an effortless win, confidently claiming the third place. PAFC celebrated their success in a nearly empty stadium, however neither Orbán, nor Mészáros (club owner, Orbán’s protégé, now 4th richest man of Hungary) seemed to worry about that. While Orbán high-fived with his peers in the VIP lounge, Mészáros was given the opportunity to award the bronze medals (and for some reason, a trophy) to the players dressed up in the incredibly cringe worthy T-shirts that say “Small place, big game!”. Big game, indeed: in the 2019/2020 season, foreign players’ share of the teams playing time was 43.6% while academy graduates contributed only 17.9%.
On Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after PAFC’s glorious success, György Szöllősi, now editor-in-chief of Hungary’s only sports newspaper (purchased by Orbán’s affiliates a few years back) published an editorial on the site, stating that “the soccer rebuild in Felcsút became the motor and symbol of the revitalization of sport throughout the whole country”. Well, Szöllősi is exactly right: Felcsút did became a symbol, but a symbol of something entirely different. Felcsút became a symbol of corruption, inefficiency, lies and the colossal waste of money. But, hey, at least we know now: you only need to spend 200 million EUR (total budget of PAFC and its academy in the 2011-2020 period) if you want to have a Europa League team in your backyard. Good to know!

Epilogue: What's in the future?

As there is no foreseeable chance for political change to happen Hungary (Orbán effortlessly secured qualified majority in 2014 and 2018, and is projected to do so in 2022 as well), PAFC’s future seems to be as bright as it gets. Although consensus opinion now seems to assume that Orbán does not intend to interfere with the Ferencváros – Videoton hegemony, we can never be really sure about the exact limits of his greed. One could also argue that entering the European theater serves as a prime opportunity for making splashy transfers who could be the cornerstones of a side challenging the league title.
However, as all political systems are deemed to fall, eventually Orbán’s regime will come apart. Whoever will take upon the helm after Orbán, they will certainly begin with cutting back on the one item on Orbán’s agenda that never had popular support: limitless football spending. Puskás Academy, having next to zero market revenue, will not be able to survive without the state’s life support, so the club will fold very shortly. The abandoned, rotting stadium in Felcsút will serve as a memento of a powerful man who could not understand the true spirit of football.
But let’s get back to present day, as we have more pressing issues coming up soon: PAFC will play their first European match in the First qualifying round of the Europa League on 27 August. We don’t have a date for the draw yet, but soon enough, a team unaware of the whole situation will be selected to face the beast. I hope that maybe one of their players does some research and maybe reads this very article for inspiration. I hope that the supporters of this club get in touch with Honvéd fans who would be eager to provide them with some tips on appropriate chants. I hope that other teams gets drawn as the home team so Orbán wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking to his stadium for an international match. But most importantly, I very much hope that this team obliterates PAFC and wipes them off the face of the earth. 5-0 will suffice, thank you.
And if this team fails to do that, we don’t have to worry yet. Due to our shitty league coefficient, PAFC would need to win four fixtures in a row. And that – if there’s any justice in this world – is a thing that can’t, that won’t happen. Ball don’t lie – if I may say.
TL,DR
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán redirected some 200 million EUR of taxpayer money over 10 years to fuel his ambition of raising a competitive football team in his hometown of 1,800 people. He built a 3,800-seater stadium in his backyard, expropriated football legend Ferenc Puskás’ trademarks and heritage and built up a football league where almost all clubs are owned by his trustees. His team, Puskás Akadémia FC was originally intended to be a development ground for youth players graduating from Orbán’s football academy, but eventually the team became more and more result-orianted. Finally, a roster full of foreign and non-academy players came through and finished third in the league, releasing this abomination of a team to the European football theatre. Please, knock them out asap!
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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jun. 24, 2002

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
PREVIOUSLY:
1-7-2002 1-14-2002 1-21-2002 1-28-2002
2-4-2002 2-11-2002 2-18-2002 2-25-2002
3-4-2002 3-11-2002 3-18-2002 3-25-2002
4-1-2002 4-8-2002 4-15-2002 4-22-2002
4-29-2002 5-6-2002 5-13-2002 5-20-2002
5-27-2002 6-3-2002 6-10-2002 6-17-2002
  • We open with a ton of details on Steve Austin walking out on WWE last week, and the story took a darker turn this week when Austin was accused of allegedly beating his wife Debra. Looks like Dave is just going to run through the whole last couple of weeks first though, before we get to all that. No wrestler in the history of the business has generated more money than Austin has in the past 5 years, leading the way for WWE to become listed on the New York Stock Exchange and valued at more than $1 billion. Hulk Hogan, Antonio Inoki, Gorgeous George, Jim Londos....no one in the history of wrestling, even adjusted for inflation, has been a bigger money-maker than Steve Austin. Throughout it all, he had a reputation as a pro's pro, always working hard and being unselfish in trying to help the company and his co-workers grow. But over the last few months, things had changed. The company is nose-diving, Austin had become paranoid and distrustful of the locker room, particularly when the NWO guys were brought in. He refused to work with Hogan at Wrestlemania and wasn't happy about working with Hall either, and insisted on decisively winning their match and blowing off the feud. He went home after Wrestlemania, no-showing Raw the night after, but things seemed to be patched up soon after. When he came back, he still wasn't happy and spoke out publicly against the brand extension and the overall creative direction of the company. A lot of people in the locker room supported Austin, feeling he was completely justified in his complaints because everyone realizes the wheels are falling off the company lately. The Sunday night before Raw last week, Austin was told by Jim Ross that the plan was for him to face Brock Lesnar, with the idea that Eddie Guerrero would cost him the match. Austin pointed out the obvious: him vs. Lesnar is a huge money match that should be built up for months on PPV. Lesnar should go through the whole locker room before he gets to Austin last. No first, on free TV, with no build-up. Austin hated the idea and said he wasn't coming if that was the plan. Ross told Vince, who called Austin and left a voicemail. He told Austin to call him back, no matter what time. Austin did call back, at 2am, and they discussed the plan. According to Vince, Austin had reluctantly agreed to it. Austin evidently felt otherwise, because he showed up to Raw that day, found out the Lesnar match was still booked, and decided, "fuck that", got on a plane and went home with Debra.
  • Raw that night was mostly built around the angle where Ric Flair would have to be Austin's personal assistant after he lost their match last week. Because much of the show was written around that, they had to re-write the whole show at the last minute in a panic, abruptly turning Flair babyface again and ending the huge dual-ownership angle with no build-up (it really sounds like Vince was determined to give away something huge on TV that week without building it up. "Ok, fine, Austin walked out. What else can we ruin this week and throw away a perfectly good PPV money opportunity?"). Meanwhile, Austin was ignoring all phone calls until he finally answered one from Jim Ross, who told Austin he was being unprofessional and to come try and talk it out with Vince. But Austin refused, saying he refused to work with McMahon anymore, and hung up.
  • So then came the burial. Vince McMahon and Jim Ross taped interviews for this week's episode of WWE Confidential in which they completely buried Austin, with Vince vowing to never bring him back. Basically everything you can imagine: Austin turned his back on the fans, he betrayed the little kids with Stone Cold shirts and all the fans who made him rich. WWE invested so much in Austin only for him to turn his back on them and so on and so forth. Jim Ross in particular dumped a lot of dirt on Austin's grave here, which Dave seems taken aback by. Austin saved Jim Ross' announcing career by insisting that JR be brought back for his Wrestlemania 15 match with Rock. At the time, Ross was still suffering from Bells palsy and Vince had no intention of ever bringing him back, but Austin insisted and the crowd reaction led to Ross being brought back permanently. So for Ross to be burying his good friend like this seems to rub Dave the wrong way (for what it's worth, it rubbed JR the wrong way too. He's gone on record a million times since then saying he wished he hadn't done it and he's apologized to Austin profusely for it). Ross talked openly about some of Austin's personal business, like his previous divorce or when his kids went to live in England, and hinted that Austin's issues were more than just professional burnout. At the time this was being filmed, nobody knew just how true that was.
WATCH: WWE Confidential: The Steve Austine episode
  • The night before WWE Confidential aired, at 4am, Austin's wife Debra called 911 to their home in San Antonio, claiming Austin had attacked her. Austin drove away in his yellow Corvette before the police arrived. When they showed up, they found Debra crying with a large welt on her face. She said Austin had hit her several times after an argument then left when she made the 911 call. She said she was worried about the call because of how famous Austin is and knowing word would get out. She also showed them several marks on her back where she said Austin hit her. Austin called the house twice while police were there and they spoke to him and advised him to come home. Austin was cordial to the officers on the phone but refused to come back home while they were there. Debra declined to press charges and because she refused to seek medical attention, under Texas law, the police pretty much consider it a dead issue unless she changes her mind. Austin later returned home after they left. The national news media didn't pick up on it until Monday, at which point it became a huge story. They even had a news helicopter following Austin driving around town (with an open beer in his Corvette), talking with his neighbors in his yard, and also showed him flipping off the news cameras (I can't find footage of any of this). Because Austin is a wrestler and play fighting is what they do, the media treated this very serious issue as if were almost a joke, which Dave seems disgusted by.
  • With Austin being all over the news that day, this led to the unannounced surprise return of The Rock on Raw, after they spent the whole show teasing that Austin would show up. Rock wasn't scheduled to return until next month, to build for a match at Summerslam, but knowing the company was in a tough situation, Rock agreed to come back early. The plan appears to be for Rock to challenge for the WWE title at Fully Loaded next month. There's also been talk about Rock winning the title and then dropping it to Brock Lesnar at Summerslam, which is a surefire way to create a new superstar (indeed, that's exactly what happens). Rock's return, since it came as a complete surprise, was a flop in the ratings. If they had built it up just one week, they could have made some money on it, but not building up anything seems to be the M.O. for WWE these days. Between the Shawn Michaels return, the FlaiVince blow-off, and now this, that's 3 Raws in a row where they gave away major moments that should/could have been built up for bigger ratings or PPV money. Dave calls WWE a junkie pawning its $2,500 ring for $500 just to get a quick fix. And that's not even getting into the smaller details, such as the fact that Rock is a Smackdown guy, so why the fuck is he returning on Raw anyway? But again, the wheels are totally off the WWE train here in 2002. It's clear to see in retrospect how WWE was falling from their peak and Vince was desperately clawing at any idea he could think of to stop the bleeding.
  • So back to Austin. Even after the story broke, Vince went on Raw and changed his tune, saying he hoped Austin would some day come back to WWE but time would tell and for now, he's gone. Dave says if you think this is going to end Austin's career, look at Mike Tyson, Jimmy Snuka, Invader I, and Chris Adams. All of whom did even more heinous things than Austin and their careers were just fine. Dave is pretty sure he'll be back. Rock came out on Raw, gave a big rah-rah speech in which he also pretty much buried Austin for "taking his ball and going home" and did the whole "get the F out" tagline. And that's it on the Austin saga for now.
  • It's officially super-duper extra official now: the World Wrestling Federation is dead. WWE lost its final appeal in the UK's highest court in their battle against the World Wildlife Fund. Vince McMahon had already thrown in the towel and the company has already been renamed to WWE, but the final appeal was never dropped and was still going through the system. In the highly unlikely event that they somehow won the case, they planned to revert back to the WWF initials. But of course, they didn't win. Just like every single lower court before them, the court handed the wrestling company its final defeat. So WWF is dead. WWE it is.
  • Motoko Baba officially announced that she will be retiring as AJPW president at the end of September. It's expected that Keiji Muto will take over the role, which has been heavily rumored ever since he jumped ship from NJPW.
  • A rookie named Trevor Rhodes, who was trained by Harley Race, will be working the upcoming tour for Pro Wrestling NOAH (this would be future WWE star Trevor Murdoch).
  • NJPW held its annual stockholders meeting and Antonio Inoki couldn't even be bothered to attend. Masa Chono and Tatsuo Kawamura were named to the board of directors, to replace Riki Choshu. Speaking of, Choshu was also there and sold all his stock in the company and left without speaking to reporters.
  • In a radio interview, Jesse Ventura announced that he will not be running for a second term as Minnesota's governor. Ventura didn't go into all the reasons why, but he did acknowledge a recent controversy as playing a part. There's been some news stories this week noting that Ventura's 22-year-old son used the governor's mansion for a late night weekend party awhile back. Cleaning crew members of the mansion went public saying that when their parents are gone, this kid basically throws wild parties there that they have to clean up after. Ventura shot back, basically claiming his son is being slandered and denied it, but said the attacks on his family made him not want to run again. The news stories talked about some of the alleged damage and Dave actually sides with Ventura here. The damage doesn't sound that bad (some empty beer cans, a broken pool cue, and some tables that were scuffed up. "Geez, that's my house whenever there is a fight night," Dave writes. Doesn't sound like that wild of a party. A 22-year old brings his friends over to watch sports and drink some beer. Dave doesn't think that should be a huge controversy or anything. Neighbors near the mansion have said there's been no issue with noise or disturbances.
  • Major League Wrestling had its debut show at the old ECW Arena and the MLW championship was won by Shane Douglas. They did an angle where they basically tried to re-create the famous Shane Douglas/NWA title incident, where Shane was gonna throw the belt down, but they did an angle where he was told he'd be fined and suspended for life from wrestling if he didn't defend the belt. Angle didn't get over at all and most people there hated it and it led to pretty mediocre reviews for the show overall. Bam Bam Bigelow was supposed to work the show, but when he arrived, he found out they wanted him to do a job to AJPW wrestler Taiyo Kea in the first round of the title tournament. Bam Bam said fuck that and bounced. Steve Corino also managed to get a "fuck Paul Heyman!" chant going, in the ECW Arena nonetheless, which is an interesting note.
  • Sandman will be doing a celebrity boxing match in Philly soon, going against Tony Luke, who owns a bunch of sandwich shops in the area and is known as "The King of Sandwiches" in Philadelphia. Sure, why not?
  • There was a recent news story about Sputnik Monroe from a reporter who was in Memphis for the Tyson/Lewis boxing match. The reporter went to the Memphis Rock 'n Soul museum and saw the big display they had there for Monroe, including his ring jacket, trunks, boots, etc. Dave recaps the history of Monroe, who is credited with desegregating wrestling in Memphis during the Jim Crow days of the 1950s. Monroe was a white wrestler who hung out in the black part of town and, as a result, became the black fans' favorite wrestler. He was a huge draw in Memphis at a time when black fans weren't allowed to sit in the main seats, only the nosebleeds in the balcony. Monroe's popularity was so big that one week, they turned away more than 1,000 black fans even though they had room in the arena. Just not in the "colored" section. So Monroe told the promoter he was quitting if they didn't let in his black fans. And since Monroe was such a huge draw, the promoter caved, and just like that, black fans were allowed to sit with white fans anywhere in the arena. It actually had a domino effect, because it was the first sporting event in Memphis to desegregate and it led to other sporting and entertainment events in the city following suit. In the 50s and 60s, Memphis was one of the only wrestling territories in America that was desegregated like this (fun fact: I used to live in Memphis and just went to that museum back in 2018. For starters, I highly recommend it if you're ever in town. In fact, I have a million recommendations for anyone who ever visits Memphis. That city is my heart and soul. Also, the Sputnik Monroe exhibit is still there).
  • The TNA debut show hasn't happened at press time, but Ken Shamrock is expected to win the NWA title in the battle royal gimmick. If he doesn't, it's because there was a last minute change, but as of now, it's absolutely going to be Shamrock.
  • Good news for TNA, the company reached an agreement with Dish Network, which adds another 7-8 million potential homes to their exposure. The only PPV provider in the U.S. not carrying them now is Cablevision.
  • The TNA cruiserweight title has been renamed the "X" title. The idea is that it's not necessarily going to be limited to just small guys and will act more as a secondary title to the NWA belt, not exclusively a cruiserweight thing.
  • Disco Inferno turned down an offer to join TNA because they wanted him to change his name to Ad Man and have a gimmick where people print/draw ads on his body, like they do in boxing sometimes. Or like a NASCAR. The idea is he would be covered in ads and every week, he'd lose a match and a "sponsor" would drop out and eventually, he'd have no sponsors left because he keeps losing. Gee, hard to see why he turned that gimmick down.
  • Random other TNA notes: Ed Ferrara is involved in writing the shows along with Jeff and Jerry Jarrett (and, let's be honest, Vince Russo, though that's still top secret. Shhhh, don't tell anybody). Jeff Jarrett was in the pits for the recent NASCAR Kroger 300 race with Hermie Sadler, who is scheduled to be at TNA's debut show. Former ECW manager Sinister Minister will be part of this company, using his real name James Mitchell. K-Krush (Ron Killings, aka R-Truth) is expected to be one of the main heels in the promotion.
  • Okay, fine. Let's talk Russo. Officially, he's still not involved, but he has submitted a bunch of ideas, many of which are expected to be implemented on the debut show. But "officially" he's not part of the company (he's still gotta have a quick cup of coffee in WWE before they kick him to the curb again, at which point he finally decides to join TNA for real).
  • The WWA promotion is in deep trouble. They have a show scheduled for Ireland soon and ticket sales for that show are pretty decent. But every other show on their books looks to be dying. They have 3 shows scheduled for Germany next month and all 3 shows have less than 500 tickets sold each. The German promoters are wanting to cancel the tour but WWA promoter Andrew McManus has a contract that will result in a lot of financial penalties for him if the shows are canceled, so he's fighting it. Lex Luger is booked for the tour, which would be his first time wrestling since WCW went down. They're also still promoting names like Jeff Jarrett and other TNA contracted talent, but with their new plan of running live every week, it's going to be hard for any of them to get overseas, work the tour, and still do the TNA tapings.
  • XWF is making one last grasp to survive. Even though they've been saying this for almost a year now, the promotion is claiming once again to be very close to getting a TV deal. If it goes through, the plan is to hold a press conference to announce it and then tape 5 weeks of TV to air in Sept. and Oct., with plans to air a PPV some time in late-October. Dave says this sounds like desperation to him and he's not buying that a TV deal is close. Especially since they lost all their top stars, like Hogan, Curt Hennig, and Jerry Lawler, all of whom were involved at the beginning but have all since returned to WWE (though Hennig has since been fired by WWE again, so he's available). But even if this miraculously happens, most of the marketable names left out there have already signed short-term deals with TNA that will last through October, so they wouldn't be available either. So XWF will be struggling to fill a roster with names anyone even cares about (obviously this never happens).
  • UFC will make its TV debut as part of a 30-minute segment on Fox Sports' "The Best Damn Sports Show Period." It will be hosted by Fear Factor host Joe Rogan, who is a huge UFC fan and has a lot of martial arts experience himself. The idea is to show one full fight in its entirety (Robbie Lawler vs. Steve Berger), with highlights of other fights to fill out the rest of the time. Dave criticizes them for not putting Chuck Liddell vs. Vitor Belfort on the show, or at least airing highlights, but that's not the plan as of press time. Obviously, that's a strong PPV draw and that's where the money is, but you only get one chance to make a good impression and Dave thinks it would be in UFC's best interest to give TV viewers a taste of their best foot forward and try to get somebody like Liddell over with a new, large audience.
  • Dave says the Bob Sapp fight in K-1 that was talked about last week, in which Sapp basically mauled his opponent in such a way that he got DQ'd, was at least partially a work. Had it not been, Sapp would have been immediately fired, not given a rematch with the same opponent 6 weeks later. There's a pretty good chance that his opponent didn't know and that the people who ran in to separate them after the fight didn't know either, but Dave seems pretty confident that Sapp was instructed by someone higher up in K-1 to do what he did.
  • Rock's next movie, "Helldorado" is expected to film between September until around Christmas. WWE is hopeful Rock can make some appearances on TV during the those months in between filming dates, but that's going to be difficult to pull off (indeed, he never shows up during this time).
  • Speaking of Rock, he worked the Honalulu, HI house show over the weekend, which drew an easy sellout crowd, the first sellout for a house show in a long time. Due to Rock being on the card, tickets sold out in 2 hours and scalpers were making a ton of money. In fact, the show was such a big deal that a local radio station was giving away tickets for the craziest stunt fans could pull and 2 fans walked through downtown Honolulu completely naked in order to score tickets. Rock beat Jericho in the main event in a great match. It was WWE's first time there in 8 years (Dave corrects himself from before, when he said 14 years in a previous issue and someone here on Reddit called him out on it haha). Rock got a reaction like Antonio Inoki in Japan, he was basically a god in this city. A lot of his friends and family were there as well and backstage, Rock told people that the show was bigger to him than even his 4 Wrestlemania main events and called it the biggest night of his career. When talking about his grandfather, Rock got emotional and began crying and talked about his history promoting in Hawaii. Bruce Willis, for whatever reason, was in attendance, and during the match, they did an angle where Rock held Jericho for Willis to punch him which got a huge pop. Genichiro Tenryu and Motoko Baba were there as well, meeting with John Laurinaitis (Johnny Ace, who spent much of his career in AJPW). They were there to discuss doing business with WWE as well as to get some photo ops for the magazines back in Japan so they can get that WWE-rub. (Sure enough, here's an article from just a couple months ago where Rock says once again, to this day, that the match with Jericho in Hawaii was the most meaningful match of his career. I can't find any footage of the damn thing though, which is a shame).
WATCH: The Rock, in 2020, talks about the Hawaii match with Jericho being his most meaningful match
  • Notes from Raw: X-Pac lost in a King of the Ring qualifier match to RVD and Dave says it's a good thing nobody in WWE pays attention to their own storylines because just a week or two ago, the story was that if anyone in the NWO loses a match going forward, they're out of the group. But of course, that wasn't even acknowledged or remembered here. Raven lost to Jeff Hardy in 3 minutes and Dave's not sure that Raven made the right move by giving up his safe commentary job because they sure don't seem to see much in him as a wrestler. The "Molly Holly is fat" storyline continued because fuck this company. Lawler even tried to get a "She's a fat ass" chant going. Backstage, X-Pac was shown crying after his loss, "sort of like real life," Dave jokes. They teased Austin showing up by playing his music and having Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit come out instead. They did a thing with Jackie Gayda teasing her being on the WWE Lingerie Special that airs next week and had Vince hitting on her backstage, making it very apparent why she was chosen to win Tough Enough over the obvious most deserving finalist, Kenny. And in the main event, Nash and Shawn Michaels were on commentary burying the match, making fun of Jim Ross, etc. And of course, the show closed with Rock doing his surprise return and promo where he pretty much buried Austin for leaving.
WATCH: The Rock makes surprise return to Raw to bury Austin
  • Coming out of Raw, a TON of fans still seemed to think the Austin thing was an angle. Vince's first promo, which was a total shoot about Austin being gone, didn't get over that way, with most fans in the arena expecting an angle and waiting for him to show up. There were constant "We want Austin!" chants and many people that Dave has heard from even thought the Confidential episode was all a work.
  • Notes from Smackdown: all the mentions of Austin on commentary weren't done live during the show, but were later dubbed in. Mostly it was just an effort to plug the Confidential episode about him, and it was such a last minute decision to do that episode that they had to edit the plugs in after the show was taped. The wall of security guards in the ring during the Triple H/Undertaker contract signing was copying the same thing they did before the Tyson/Lewis fight because it's a pretty cool visual. Nidia is doing a hillbilly gimmick now. Hurricane seems to be dropping his gimmick and going back to Gregory Helms. Word is most of the agents hated the Hurricane character for whatever dumb reason.
  • Dave talks about the upcoming Hogan vs. Kurt Angle match at King of the Ring and is curious to see how it goes. He thinks the most likely ending is Vince costing Hogan the match and Angle pinning him, but he's curious to see if Hogan is really going to try to put Angle over or is it gonna be another Kidman situation. That being said, WWE is protecting Angle and there's serious talk of giving Angle a run as the top guy, in the wake of Austin and Rock leaving and Undertaker and Triple H being so banged up. The idea is to put the belt on Angle and have him take on all comers, heel and face, like an old-school Lou Thesz-type champion. Either way, this Hogan match is going to be a test of how good Angle is because if he can't carry Hogan to a good match, then no one can. It's also going to be a test of whether Hogan is really the team player he claims to be now (yeah Dave's gonna be shocked at how this one ends I bet).
  • At the latest WWE tapings in Atlanta, Dusty Rhodes was backstage visiting and introducing his 16-year-old son Cody Runnels to everyone. Cody has been training with his father to be a wrestler. Good luck kid.
  • Former 50s-80s promoter Jim Barnett was also backstage at Raw and since it was his birthday, the McMahons got him a cake and orchestrated everyone singing happy birthday to him. Barnett was there because he was just hired as a consultant, which is curious timing. Barnett hadn't been officially hired by TNA or anything, but he had agreed to appear at their debut show as part of an angle with old NWA champions. So when WWE swooped in this past week and hired him, it got a lot of people talking but Dave says there's nothing to it. If Vince McMahon was trying to poach people from TNA, he wouldn't start by hiring a 78-year-old guy to be a consultant.
  • The local FOX station in Los Angeles, like everyone else, covered the Steve Austin/Debra story on the "Good Day L.A." morning newscast. The story was presented as a big joke, even using the headline "Smackdown At Home." Well, one of the anchors, Jillian Barberie, refused to play along, presenting the story as the serious issue it is and afterwards, criticized the station's writing team live on the air, calling them low class for making light of a woman being beaten by her husband.
  • Random WWE news and notes: Bubba Ray Dudley missed the UK PPV and TV this week due to the death of his mother. Edge and Chris Jericho have joined Kurt Angle as part of the Get Tough on Angina campaign that Angle has already been doing commercials for. A commercial for Summerslam was filmed this week with a bunch of guys chasing Trish Stratus in an ice cream truck.
WATCH: Trish Stratus Summerslam 2002 ice cream truck commercial
  • Rey Mysterio made his WWE debut at a house show in San Diego, beating Chavo Guerrero. Mysterio was wearing his mask again and was said to be more impressive than anyone else on the show. The mask actually did come off by accident at one point though. Mysterio also looked substantially bigger than he did in WCW because, well, he's coming to WWE and you know how that goes.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: Bret Hart injured in bicycle accident, WWE re-hires Vince Russo, King of the Ring fallout, and more coverage of TNA's debut than you could ever possibly want, and a ton more...
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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jun. 17, 2002

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
PREVIOUSLY:
1-7-2002 1-14-2002 1-21-2002 1-28-2002
2-4-2002 2-11-2002 2-18-2002 2-25-2002
3-4-2002 3-11-2002 3-18-2002 3-25-2002
4-1-2002 4-8-2002 4-15-2002 4-22-2002
4-29-2002 5-6-2002 5-13-2002 5-20-2002
5-27-2002 6-3-2002 6-10-2002

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Some of you may have missed last week's post because I didn't do it on Wednesday. Ended up posting it Thursday instead, so it's there in the archives below if you missed it. I know this 2002 series of Rewinds doesn't really have the momentum or appeal that it had back when I was posting them 3 times a week for years on end. Sorry about that, like I said before, I just decided to post these on a whim when the virus started and didn't really prepare for it so it's all kinda haphazard. But just didn't want anyone to miss the one from last week if it flew under the radar.

  • Steve Austin walked out of WWE this week and threw everything into upheaval. As a result, Raw featured Vince McMahon challenging Ric Flair to a match for ownership of the entire company. It was the ultimate final blow-off to a huge long-term angle, and they did it with only 2 hours of build-up. With Vince now in charge of both shows, questions are swirling about whether this spells the end of the brand split, only a few months in. The reason this all happened is because, only 6 hours before Raw went on the air, Steve Austin showed up to the arena and found out he was scheduled to wrestle (and Dave thinks put over, though he hasn't confirmed that yet) Brock Lesner. Dave immediately points out the obvious, that an Austin vs. Lesnar match is something you should build up ahead of time, not throw it on free TV with no build up at all. Plus, he's still so new, he's incredibly green, and he's spent the last few months selling way too much for people like the Hardyz and Bubba Ray Dudley. Hell, before he debuted in WWE, he wasn't even the most over guy in OVW. He's nowhere near the level you'd expect for him to be winning matches with Steve Austin un-hyped on free TV. In fact, Lesnar should probably go through just about everyone else on the roster before putting him against Austin. That's a potential Wrestlemania-level match and Dave seems befuddled that they would just book it for Raw like this.
  • Apparently Austin felt the same way because he and his wife Debra left the building and flew home before Vince McMahon even arrived to the arena, the second time since Wrestlemania that he has walked out on the company. A source who was there when McMahon learned of the news said that, for the first time anyone could remember, Vince seemed to drop his "game face" and there seemed to be genuine panic about what to do. Rock has one foot out the door to Hollywood. Undertaker and Triple H are banged up and won't be around forever (bet). Business is already collapsing. And now the biggest star the company's ever had just walked out the door. Last time Austin walked out after Wrestlemania, he was only away for 2 weeks. This time, there's a feeling it could be much longer. Those close to Austin say he's been unhappy for months and this decision wasn't anything specifically to do with the Lesnar match. That just happened to be the final straw. Austin made news last week when he went on the WWE's Byte This show and voiced his frustrations with the company's creative direction. Plans had been put into motion over the last couple weeks for Austin to feud with Eddie Guerrero and then Chris Benoit, which he was happy about (he was enjoying his recent house show matches with Eddie and Benoit is one of Austin's favorite opponents) but that's out the window now. Austin and Vince McMahon reportedly haven't been on good terms for several months now and word is the night before Raw, the two of them had a very heated conversation over the phone that left Austin pissed off and frustrated even before this went down.
  • And that's the deal on Austin. He has more money than he'll ever be able to spend and doesn't have any financial need to wrestle. He only does so because he enjoys it. And if he doesn't enjoy it anymore, then by all means, it's his right to leave and he doesn't owe the business anything if he wants to hang up the boots. But Dave does feel like Austin owes WWE at least a few weeks to write him out of storylines since he's such an important piece of the company. Walking out from a live TV taping is unprofessional and it leaves guys like Guerrero and Benoit left hanging, thus screwing up their future plans and money-making potential too (yeah, that's something that doesn't get talked about much. Austin walking out fucked Guerrero over pretty hard here. It would take him another 2 years to get back into that main event scene that he would have been involved in here). That being said, pretty much everyone in the locker room sympathizes with Austin and agrees with his complaints about the creative direction of the company, but not many of them were defending the way he walked out. And given that this is the second time he's done it, the feeling is he shouldn't be allowed back without facing some actual punishment this time.
  • So anyway, the day of Raw, they went into panic mode and had to re-write the entire show. And with the feeling Austin won't be coming back anytime soon, Vince felt they needed to do something big. So they went with blowing off the dual-owners angle in a match that was designed to turn Flair babyface again and establish Vince as the heel owner of everything. There was also discussion of turning Undertaker babyface again, since he's been getting more cheers than RVD when they work together at house shows lately but they decided against that for now (they end up doing it in a couple weeks). So now Flair has been abruptly turned back, after only turning heel a few weeks prior. The brand split may or may not be dead. And there we stand.
  • In what would have been a major story during any other week, DDP has officially retired from wrestling at age 46. Unfortunately, Austin's walk-out overshadowed everything. The decision on DDP's retirement was actually made by Vince McMahon and Jim Ross, who pretty much made the choice for him after they got his medical reports. DDP has been advised by multiple doctors that his spine is shot and he needs to retire. For the company's own liability, WWE decided to listen to the doctors and DDP agreed. There has been talk of finding ways for DDP to work the remainder of his contract for the company in a non-wrestling capacity. (He obviously ends up wrestling a handful of matches in the years since, but for the most part, this really was the end of DDP's in-ring career as a full-time wrestler).
  • There were a couple of moments on Raw this week where Shawn Michaels was cutting a promo and made a comment about Austin "losing his top spot" and another comment later about Rock "stealing Triple H's spot." A lot of people in the company backstage were upset, feeling like this was the same ol' Shawn, going into business for himself and trashing on Austin and Rock and yada yada. Not the case. Those comments were actually scripted for Shawn to say because they want to get over the idea that Shawn on the mic is a loose cannon and you never know when he might start "shooting" and say something he's not supposed to. It's all very dumb, you see. Almost like Vince Russo is coming back any day now or something.
  • Dave gives a big preview and rundown of the Jarrett family's new NWA-TNA promotion, which has its debut show next week on PPV. Not all cable systems are carrying it, however. Cablevision and Dish Network both declined to carry it, but DirecTV is. This cuts down on the number of available homes for the show and probably cuts 20-30% off their potential revenue. The main PPV provider in Canada, Viewer's Choice, has also declined to carry it. Steep mountain to climb here. Dave expects them to do decent numbers for their first show but predicts an XFL-like collapse after that. By week 3, Dave is scared for their chances. From here, Dave gives the whole history of other promotions who've tried to make it on PPV in the U.S., with varying degrees of success and failure. UWFI, UFC, ECW, WCW, PRIDE, etc, WWF has even toyed with similar ideas. In 1991, they did the one-off Tuesday In Texas PPV as a test to see if they could run PPVs back-to-back (Survivor Series was only the week prior) and it was a flop. The original concept for Shotgun Saturday Night was for it to be a weekly Saturday night PPV with a similar >$10 price point, but that idea got scrapped before it got off the ground and it became just another TV show. Dave doesn't think TNA is going to make it without a TV deal. This PPV exclusive plan just has too much working against it. The Jarretts have talked about the millions of disenfranchised fans that stopped watching after WCW died, and it's true. Those people are out there. But those millions of fans all checked out between 1999-2001, and TNA isn't going to win them back by using the same people and the same concepts that ran those viewers away from WCW. All your wacky booking ideas, your Vince Russos, your Jeff Jarretts as champion, bringing in guys that even WWE won't touch (Scott Hall), etc. Those are all the same things that ran away those WCW viewers. Dave just doesn't see how this experiment can work in its current form.
  • Vince McMahon himself was the latest guest on WWE's Byte This show and needless to say, it was interesting. Vince denied the idea that the wrestling business is "cyclical" and said it's more like a series of peaks and valleys that have slowly been trending upwards over the years. Vince also admitted WWE doesn't always make the best decisions but says their batting average is good overall. Vince also said he's proud to have the word "wrestling" in their company name, which is a pretty big about-face from all the years he's tried to publicly claim they were "sports entertainment, not wrestling." He admitted things are rough right now but said there are huge changes coming soon that will change the entire industry but wouldn't elaborate on what he had planned (I think time has proven that the answer to this was nothing whatsoever. They had no idea what they were doing during this time and were just making shit up as they went along). Vince acknowledged that Austin has been frustrated lately and said Austin is the most demanding of all the wrestlers in WWE. Vince also said he pays no attention to the internet because everyone thinks they're a booker. He also complained that it's hard to live up to people's expectations because fans all think they know everything now. Acknowledged ratings being down and played it off like, yes, WWE is sick. But it's only a cold, not pneumonia or anything, so don't panic.
  • More notes from Vince on Byte This because huge unbroken paragraphs suck: he hinted at producing movies starring WWE talent. Dave thinks that's a bad idea. "No Holds Barred," anyone? Criticized backyard wrestling, which Dave actually agrees with him 100% on. Was asked about bringing Vince Russo back and said he hasn't given it any thought but he has an open door policy (see you next week, Russo! Jeez, it almost makes you wonder if Vince got the idea from this interview or something). When asked about the recent Jim Cornette/Ed Ferrara incident, Vince basically seemed disinterested but said he admires Cornette's passion for wrestling but felt spitting in Ferrara's face was unprofessional. When asked about NWA-TNA, Vince said he didn't understand how they could do it without television. Trying to get people to pay $9.95 a week for a 2 hour show (a minor league product at that, because anything other than WWE is basically minor leagues at this point), when they already get Raw and Smackdown on free television. Otherwise, he said he has no opinions on it because he hasn't seen it, but Vince seems to share Dave's opinion. He doesn't see this PPV model as sustainable and doesn't seem particularly threatened by it.
  • NJPW's latest Best of the Super Juniors tournament is in the books and was a disappointment, just like everything else in NJPW lately. Koji Kanemoto won a pretty boring tournament. There was only one new name involved, which was Michinoku Pro wrestler Curry Man (Christopher Daniels under a mask). He's talented and charismatic but he's not even that big a star in Michinoku Pro, much less to the NJPW audience. Otherwise, it was more of the same, with no real notable matches.
  • Zero-1 in Japan is hoping to put together a working relationship with NWA-TNA. Specifically, they're hoping they can do a Shinya Hashimoto vs. Ken Shamrock feud, perhaps over the NWA title.
  • While training for his comeback, Kenta Kobashi messed up his shoulder doing bench presses, because of course he did. Doctors have told him not to return too soon but he still plans to be back in the ring by next month. Because of course he does.
  • NJPW's latest show at Budokan Hall was a disaster. From photos Dave saw, he figures there couldn't have been more than 3,500 fans in the building. Even at its weakest after the NOAH exodus, AJPW never fell below 7,000 at Budokan and this show looked to be half that. It's likely the smallest crowd NJPW has ever drawn to that arena. The whole show was said to be terrible because of the depressing atmosphere of a building that was 2/3 empty.
  • This week's World Cup game between Japan and Russia did a 66.1 TV rating, making it the #2 highest rated sports broadcast in the history of Japan. This is notable because by doing so, it surpassed the Rikidozan vs. Destroyer match from 1963, which did a 64.0 rating, knocking it down to #3 (for what it's worth, it's believed that a Rikidozan vs. Lou Thesz match in 1957 was actually watched by even more people, but official ratings weren't kept as detailed back then, so it can't be counted for sure).
  • Dave has read some excerpts from the new Shaun Assael book on Vince McMahon called "Sex, Lies, and Headlocks." From what he's read, Dave says it's a very good and accurate portrayal of how the WWE has grown to what it is today. Vince's former close friend and VP of Titan Sports during the expansion era Jim Troy and Jim Barnett were both interviewed for it, among others. If you're a hardcore fan who's been following the Observer for years, there's nothing new here that you probably don't already know from a major story standpoint, but there's some interesting details at least that were new to Dave. But to the average fan, this should be pretty eye-opening. Dave expects to have a full review soon.
  • CZW held its second annual Best of the Best tournament at the old ECW Arena and the show got rave reviews. Particularly British wrestlers Jodie Fleisch and Jonny Storm, who tore the house down in their match. Trent Acid defeated Fleisch to win the tournament.
  • The Coen brothers, producers of the movie "Fargo", have had talks with Bobby Heenan about doing a movie based on his life (this pretty obviously went nowhere).
  • New Jack is no longer working with XPW and has jumped ship to work with a rival local promoter in Southern California. Perhaps not coincidentally, the last check New Jack received from XPW promoter Rob Black for $800 ended up bouncing. Dave says New Jack probably isn't the guy you want to write bad checks to.
  • NWA-TNA has changed its taping plans and no longer plans to tour, and they will now be live every week. The first two shows will be taped this week in Huntsville and after that, all future shows will be live from Nashville at the 9,000-seat Municipal Auditorium. Apparently the rent for that building is really cheap because a newer, more modern arena was just built nearby, so TNA can afford it. That being said, with as much trouble as they're having selling tickets for the debut show in Huntsville, Dave thinks it's pretty optimistic to start trying to run live tapings in the same 9,000-seat building every week. He thinks they would be much better off running a small 800-seat building every week, with a smaller, more intimate atmosphere that would come across a lot better on TV than a big cavernous arena that, inevitably, is going to be mostly empty (to this day, 18 years later, TNA/Impact has never once drawn a crowd of 9,000 fans. Never even really close actually).
  • Various other TNA notes: Dave runs down the list of confirmed names for TNA's first taping. Rick Steiner, K-Krush (formerly K-Kwik in WWF), Konnan, Steve Corino, The Harris Brothers, Psicosis, and a bunch of others. Don Frye has talked to Jeff Jarrett about coming in to work a match with Ken Shamrock. Jackie Fargo is going to be there doing something. They made an offer to Shane Douglas but he only agreed to come in if they didn't hire Francine (some kind of falling out between them). TNA decided they'd rather have Francine. They're expected to be doing some kind of old school vs. new school angle so....yay. More latter-years WCW shit. Mike & Todd Shane are coming in as a tag team called Dick & Rod Johnson and will have costumes that apparently look like penises, just in case you were still on the fence about whether Vince Russo is involved. The top stars are basically making around $3,500 per week which is a pretty decent salary for one day's work every week. The guys without name value, on the other hand, are getting $300 per show and are covering their own transportation. Just in case you were still on the fence about whether Jerry Jarrett is involved.
  • Ken Shamrock did an interview and acknowledged that he hasn't done pro-wrestling in a few years and knows he's going to be rusty. He also said he's worried because with only 1 show per week, he won't really be able to get enough matches under his belt to get good again. He also said he's signed a 3 fight deal with UFC and will be fighting Tito Ortiz in September, which turns out to be a pretty huge damn deal.
  • Dave saw the K-1 match with former WCW developmental wrestler Bob Sapp vs. some dude. Doesn't matter. What matters is Bob Sapp is enormous ("makes Brock Lesnar look like Jerry Lynn"). And he mauled this poor guy. In fact, it looked like Sapp was trying to get DQ'd, as he started kicking and kneeing the guy while he was down and just treating it like a street fight, violating lots of rules in the process. He was DQ'd but then K-1 booked Sapp and this other dude for a rematch in July. That leads Dave to think this was planned as an effort to get Sapp over as a lunatic, but if it was a work, somebody should have told the other guy because Sapp fucked him right on up. "This was like everyone feared Mike Tyson would behave, but 1,000 times worse and from a man far more scary." Furthermore, Sapp came out in a full Ric Flair robe and to Ric Flair' ring music, and the arena went insane. Sapp has massive superstar appeal in Japan right now and promoting him as a violent psychopath who has no regards for the rules in a shoot fight appears to be getting over huge.
WATCH: Bob Sapp vs. some dude. Doesn't matter. K-1
  • Edge will not need surgery for his torn labrum injury, so he'll only miss a few weeks of action instead of a few months. Edge is in the midst of the biggest push of his career and this is his chance to finally break through to the next level so needless to say, good news.
  • Notes from Raw: show opened with Vince walking out, which was unexpected since this is Flair's show. He said Austin wasn't there and made a point of saying Austin was too much of a coward to be there. Pretty well buried Austin and buried Raw as a bad show (blaming Flair in kayfabe for all the show's real life problems. Sorta like last year when they actually turned the bad ratings into a storyline by trying to blame it on Corbin. Some things never change). They're doing a storyline with Trish making fun of Molly Holly for allegedly having a fat ass because, again, some things never change. Former Tough Enough contestant Chris Nowinski debuted doing the Harvard grad gimmick like the heel jock in every teen movie. "The heel jock." Never change Dave. Shawn Michaels made his big return, cut his promo joining the NWO and turning heel on the fans before superkicking Booker T out of the group. So theoretically, this should mean Booker T should have to work his way through the entire NWO one by one before getting to Shawn at the end, in what should be Shawn's first match back. "I'm not holding my breath," Dave says. And of course, Vince beat Flair to take control of both shows. Horrible match but considering it was a last minute panic move, understandable under the circumstances. Lesnar ran in and helped Vince win the match.
WATCH: Vince McMahon opening promo with Ric Flair on Raw
WATCH: Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon for sole ownership of WWE
  • Notes from Smackdown: during a big pull-apart brawl, several agents ran in to break it up. Among them were Dean Malenko and Fit Finlay, appearing on TV for the first time in their new backstage roles, and John Lauranitis who was also shown on TV last week. More gay jokes with Billy and Chuck and Rico, which Dave calls Russo-esque. Not quite yet. Jamie Noble was introduced with Nidia from Tough Enough season 1 as his valet, in a feud with Hurricane. There was a big effort to make Bob Holly a star this week, starting a feud with he and Kurt Angle and they really pushed Holly hard as a star and Angle busted his ass to try and get him over. And they did a show-long angle with Maven in the hospital (he's legit injured) and Torrie Wilson shows up, it's implied that she gives him a blowjob, and then Dr. Tajiri shows up, mists Torrie and beats up Maven. Dave is at least happy that they're trying to make an angle out of Maven's injury so he has a storyline to come back to, which is more effort than they put into most stuff these days.
  • Various WWE notes: referee Tim White suffered a torn rotator cuff in the Backlash Hell in a Cell match and will need surgery that will keep him out of the ring for months. Rey Mysterio is scheduled to debut on WWE house shows this week and, as of now, is expected to be wearing his mask again. Terry Taylor has been reaching out to get hired, but the company won't return his calls (they eventually re-hire him in September).
  • There's been a lot of praise for the new Spiderman comic "Tangled Web" which was written by Raven (I had to research this, but yeah. "Tangled Web" was a Spiderman anthology series that lasted about 2 years and had 22 issues. Each issue was written by different authors. Issue 14 was called "The Last Shoot" and sure enough, it was co-written by Raven alongside Brian Azzarello, who is the mind behind one of my favorite comic series of all time, 100 Bullets. And I had no idea. Wild).
  • The long-discussed plan of having Arn Anderson as Chris Benoit's manager seems to be off the table now. The thought is Anderson has been devalued so much in recent months (they pretty much wheel him out every time they need someone to take a beating for heat in a Flair feud) that he wouldn't be effective as a manager for a strong, serious heel.
  • Tough Enough II winner Linda Miles made her in-ring debut on Velocity, against Ivory. She was accompanied by fellow winner Jackie Gayda, who turned heel on her and cost Linda the match. Dave thinks it's waaaaaay too early to put these 2 women in a feud against each other considering how green they both still are.
WATCH: Linda Miles vs. Ivory - WWE Velocity 2002
  • The Rock, Vince McMahon, Undertaker, Jerry Lawler, Jm Ross, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Shane McMahon were all in Memphis at the Mike Tyson/Lennox Lewis fight last week. Rock could be seen on camera a few rows deep throughout the fight, while Vince was shown on camera as a celebrity in attendance before the fight. The others were never shown on-camera, but they were all there. The PPV is estimated to have done 1.8 million buys and grossed a record $103 million, which are numbers that WWE can only dream of. Prior to the PPV, Rock co-hosted a pre-show party with guests such as Halle Berry and Britney Spears.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: Steve Austin accused of abusing Debra, much more on that situation and Austin's walkout, Jesse Ventura not running for re-election, Rock wrestles in Hawaii, and more...
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Kubala, the path to glory of Barcelona's most loved legend: A story of overcoming, adventures, crazy nights, majestic matches and of a good man who made everybody around him happy.

Nothing in Kubala's life was normal. Now that TV series about sportsmen are fashionable, the one that could be made about the adventures of Ladislao Kubala Stecz (Budapest, 1927) would raze through many seasons. In one season we could go deeper into his facet of legendary footballer, capable of changing the way of playing this sport, how he saved his life at the very last moment by not getting on the Torino plane that crashed in Superga, or how he was ten minutes away from signing for Real Madrid or enrolling in the Pirate League of Colombia, all of this in order to end being Barcelona's biggest icon... who ended playing for Espanyol.
We could add a season of adventures due to his incredible escape from communist Hungary. His journey through Italy with a football team, the Hungaria, of stateless people in which in addition to Hungarians also played Croats, Albanians, Romanians and Serbs who were looking for a life as good as they could get. One could also add to this the facet of the social phenomenon that dazzled a country during the dark years of Franco's regime by becoming a pop star, and end up with another season about the legends, real, invented or simply exaggerated, of his adventures in Barcelona's nightclubs.
Everything about Kubala is like a movie.

The legend of the escape.

Born in Budapest to a Hungarian man and a Slovakian woman, he always considered himself as both Hungarian and Slovakian, even when this republic was part of the now extinct Czechoslovakia. By the age of 20, Kubala was a football star known for his performances with Slovan Bratislava and Vasas Budapest. In fact, he had already been capped by Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Later, he would go on to play for Spain, and is still the only player to have been capped by three countries. But fed up with the system that was preventing him from developing his professional football career, he embarked on an escape proper of a movie to the West. He contacted a human trafficking organisation, a mafia that, in exchange for a large amount of money, facilitated a partial escape. As is now the case with criminals who gamble with the lives of people who want to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe or pass to the United States through the southern border, the smugglers did not secure anything. The last part of the journey depended on the luck and expertise of the escapees and often ended tragically.
"I remember that when I escaped from Hungary I was just a kid. The traffickers left us in the middle of a mountain to do the last stretch on foot. We were a large group. The adults gathered the children and gave us palinka. A liquor similar to brandy to get us drunk and fall asleep. A child's cry could alert the border guards patrolling the mountain. And they had orders to shoot to kill. The group split in two. My group was lucky and we were able to win the Austrian border. Once we were safe, we learned that the other group that had travelled with us and took another road was discovered and killed." The chilling story is that of Zoltan Czibor, the son of the former Barça player who tells how he had to flee Hungary with his family to join his father in Italy. The odyssey of Kubala, six years earlier, was mirrored.
The traffickers disguised Kubala as a Russian soldier and put him in a truck that would leave the escapees at an undetermined point in the mountains so that they could cross the border into Austria on their own. Kubala remembered that this journey scared him to death because unlike his comrades, he was a national celebrity and any soldier who checked the military truck would recognize him. He was endangering his life and the lives of those who accompanied him.
When they were left in the mountain on January 27, 1949, Kubala walked, and crossing a river helped by a tire that carried him, managed to reach Innsbuck, Austria, without any documentation. He was a stateless man starting from scratch.
In Austria he managed to sign with Pro Patria, a team from Milan, but he could only play friendly matches. His escape provoked the anger of the Hungarian regime, which denounced him and blocked his registration. Kubala had married Anna Daucik two years earlier, sister of Fernando Daucik, a veteran player of the era who would later become a famous coach. When Kubala fled, he left behind his family, whom he was unable to reunite with until six months later, when Anna was able to cross the border and meet Ladislao in Udine. He arrived with one more member of the family. A baby, her firstborn, whom Kubala did not yet know.
While he is irregularly enrolled in the Pro Patria, he gets the chance to sign with Torino, Italy's dominant team at the time. He is offered a trial match. Nothing better than a friendly match that Il Grande Torino had in Lisbon as a tribute to Xico Ferreira. However, when the Turin team's plane is about to take off, the president of Torino prevents Kubala from boarding because he fears a federal sanction. On the return flight, on 4 May 1949, the Fiat G 212 of Avio Linee Italiana crashed into the retaining wall of the Basilica of Superga due to the wind, poor visibility and an error in the altimeter of the aircraft. At 180 kilometres per hour and with a visibility of 40 metres, the pilot saw the stone wall of the basilica too late when he thought the plane was at 2,000 metres and was actually at 690 metres above sea level. The 31 people who were travelling in that aircraft died. Kubala had saved his life again.

The legend of Hungaria.

With no possibility of playing in Italy because the back then very powerful Italian Communist Party was pressing to prevent people fleeing from countries in the orbit of the USSR from taking refuge in Italy, Kubala had no choice but to form a team of stateless people who hired their services throughout Europe to play friendly matches against whoever hired them.
The team was called Hungaria, was managed by his brother-in-law Fernando Daucik and was mainly made up of Hungarians, although there were also players of other nationalities. It was made up of: Kis, Marik, Torok, Mogoy, Lami, Rákosi, Hrotko, Majteny, Nagy, Kubala, Otto, Licker, Turbeky, Monsider (Croatian), De Lorenzi (Albanian), Szegedi (Romanian) and Arangelovic (Serbian).
They played their first match against Italy's B team, but again pressure from the PCI forced them to play outside Italy. And that is how they arrived in Spain, hired by Santiago Bernabéu. On June 5, 1950, they faced Real Madrid in Chamartin, losing 4-2, but with a stellar performance by Kubala, who scored both of his team's goals. Three days later, they beat the Spanish team that was preparing for the World Cup in Brazil, where they came in fourth, 1-2 again with a great performance by Kubala, who received an offer from Real Madrid to be signed.
Kubala requires that to join the team, Madrid must also hire Daucik as a coach, something that Bernabéu does not agree to. The Madrid coach at that time was the Briton Keeping, a great connoisseur of WM tactics. Daucik is offered to train the Plus Ultra, a Madrid branch that plays in the third division. That negative and the federative problems that drags Kubala cause that Madrid becomes disinterested in his transfer, that was already agreed lacking of some fringes that turned out to be determinant.
The Hungaria moves two days later to Barcelona, where on June 10 plays against Espanyol losing 6-4 in a match with Pepe Samitier, the technical secretary of Barça, in the stands. It is necessary to emphasize that Hungaria had been playing three matches in five days with a very short team and without being able to make substitutions. Even so, Kubala amazes and Samitier does not mess around. Six days after that match, on 16 June 1950, at half past six in the evening, Kubala signed his three-year contract with Barça at the Pasaje Méndez Vigo. Obviously, with Fernando Daucik as coach. President Montal, Sr., signed him as an "amateur player" in order to avoid any trouble for the federation.
Real Madrid rages and is shocked. Pablo Hernández, general secretary of the white entity and Santiago Bernabéu's right hand, assures that Barça had broken a non-aggression pact between both teams and had hired a player with whom they were in talks. Samitier, who was unbeatable in the media, declares that he had been following Kubala for months and that the pact had not been broken because it referred only to players who played in Spanish teams. And Hungaria was not Spanish. In fact, it wasn't from anywhere.
But Kubala's problems didn't end there. He still didn't have a registration card or an international certificate. Vasas in Budapest and the Hungarian Federation had reported him to FIFA. Barça used the weak argument that since professionalism had been abolished in Hungary, any amateur player could choose his destiny. But the fight was not going to be so easy.
Barça, it is fair to say, had the total support of the regime and the Federation to carry out the transfer. At the level of anti-communist propaganda, Kubala was perfect. A young and extraordinary sportsman who fled from the red hell to take refuge in Franco's Spain was a candy too sweet to let go. Muñoz Calero, president of the Federation, rowed in favor of Barça as did Ricardo Cabot, secretary of the organization, who, in addition to his affection for the regime, was a well-known Barcelona supporter.
But the procedures were very slow and Kubala could only play friendly matches. He made his debut against Osasuna on 12 October, scoring two goals on the day the Barça fans knew instantly that they had just signed a star. Then he played against Zaragoza, Frankfurt twice, Girona and the Badalona. In six friendlies he scored 11 goals. The fans and the player himself were eager to meet in an official match. For all this, the Federation to play the role with FIFA fined Barça every time he lined up Kubala with the symbolic figure of 50 pesetas.
It is at this time that Kubala is about to leave everything and go away from Barça. He needed the money and wanted to play at the highest level and in Colombia he was offered the chance to do so. The South American country had organised the so-called Pirate League outside FIFA and many of the world's biggest stars joined, including Alfredo Di Stefano who went to Millonarios in Bogota. Kubala had a tempting offer from Atletico Bucaramanga. With the option of Kubala leaving, events accelerated. To begin with, Barça fixed his financial situation by means of a peculiar amateur contract in which they paid him 1,200 pesetas for "compensation" and 3,800 for "encouragement and overfeeding".
On April 2, 1951, he was granted the status of political refugee as a stateless person, which was a step towards granting him Spanish nationality. But for this step, Kubala first had to be converted to Catholicism through the sacrament of baptism. Every Spaniard had to be a Catholic. Kubala was baptized in Aguilas, Murcia, the birthplace of Muñoz Calero, president of the Federation. It is then when Barça, to avoid problems, settles its differences economically with Vasas, which despite being against capitalism accepts a payment of 300,000 pesetas to provide the transfer, while the Pro Patria, which also complained, is satisfied with 12 million lire.
The Kubala era could now really commence.

The legend on the field.

Kubala made his official debut with Barcelona in Sevilla in a cup match. The Sevillistas at that time were one of the best teams. Sevilla and Barça had developed in that period a great rivalry in the high places of the table. In 1946 Sevilla had stolen the possibility of winning the championship from Barça by drawing in Les Corts on the last day, in 1948 Barça beat the Sevillians in the final of the Eva Perón Cup (which would be the current Supercup) and in that campaign a Barça without Kubala had lost all its options to win La Liga after losing 4-0 in Nervión three days before the end of the season.
The Cup, by that time was played once the regular season was over and in those circumstances the official debut of Kubala took place. On April 29th in Nervion, Barça arrived to play against Sevilla in the middle of a difficult atmosphere. The Andalusians had lost the league in a dramatic outcome when they drew at home in the last match against Atletico Madrid with a refereeing performance that the locals judged scandalous. For further concern, the Federation allowed Kubala to line up with Barça in the first round of the Cup, which in Sevilla was taken as a surprise.
With the stadium full to the flag, Barcelona defeated Sevilla in an exhibition of Kubala. He wasn't just the best of the match but he showed Spain a way of playing football unthinkable until that time: chest controls, shots with curve, millimetric changes of play of 40 meters, protection of the ball with his back, use of the body in the shot and touches with the heel.
Domenech, Sevilla's attacker who was the direct protagonist of that match, explained years later how he remembered that day.
"It was something never seen before. Ramallets kicked it and he would receive her with his chest, or with either of his legs. If you tackled him he would dribble you in a brick. He'd put the ball where he wanted her. Besides, from time to time he changed with César, he'd be a center forward and César would be a midfielder. They drove us crazy. The anger of the people became clamours. We were witnessing something extraordinary. It was like going from black and white cinema to colour," explained the former Sevilla player. The Sevilla crowd, who had welcomed Barça and its new superstar with anger, ended up giving Kubala a standing ovation for every action as if they were watching a glorious bullfighting performance.
Kubala's actions on the field change football forever. Since there was no television, his exploits are reported orally. There is no other way to see it than to go to the field of Les Corts, which is packed for every game Barça plays as a local. It is a very common argument to say that Kubala forced Barça to build the Camp Nou because the old Les Corts was not enough to accommodate all the people who wanted to admire him. Maybe he had an influence, but as the journalist Frederic Porta, author of an interesting biography of Kubala (Kubala, l'heroi que va canviar la història del Barça. Ed. Saldonar) explains, "the truth is that Barça had already bought the land to build the Camp Nou two years before and the idea of making a bigger field already existed, but Kubala advanced everything and justified the change".
Blessed with brutal technique, a sensational strike of the ball and an unusual physical strength, Kubala changed football. He would throw free-kicks over the wall with curve or by making the ball bounce in front of the goalkeeper, he would take penalties (he was practically infallible) with what was later called paradinha and was credited with the Brazilians although he was the first in Europe to do so. Physically he was a bull. In his youth he had practiced boxing and if he didn't become a recognized fighter with a great career it was because he had short arms. His lower body was sensational. He had a butt and legs that allowed him to protect the ball like no one else. Frederic Porta says that "in his time of splendour they measured his thighs and each one had a circumference of 69 centimetres, which would be the waist of one of his companions". He was also capable of running the 100 metres in less than 11 seconds. A total athlete with a very refined technique.
However, that physical strength and the confidence he had in her, for he never avoided a collision, were his downfall. Kubala became the target of a hunt by rival defenders. He never went into hiding and that's why in eleven years at Barcelona he suffered up to eleven injuries of some seriousness. With matches without television, the harshness that bordered on violence was the order of the day. He was being kicked to death.
But Barça was living its most golden period to date. Moreover, the club revolved around Kubala. Frederic Porta compares it with the present time: "Now they say that Messi commands the club and surely he commands, but nothing to do with the influence that Kubala had. Kubala was the boss and even the one who decided the transfers. And no one was surprised. That Barça adopted the socks with the horizontal stripes blaugrana is his imposition. He saw them on the rugby team, liked them and incorporated them into the football team by decree. In fact, it is he who insists on signing Luis Suarez when he impresses him in a match against Deportivo. Kubala was Suarez's first fan, but what happened in the stands, which was divided between Suaristas and Kubalistas, is another matter.
Suarez was eight years younger than Kubala. He arrived at Barcelona at the age of 19, Kubala was 27 and his physique was very punished by his injuries and the life he was living, as he did not deprive himself of anything. If he held out, it was because of privileged genetics.
Therefore, there never was a real competition between them, but there was a lot of influence here from the figure of Helenio Herrera, the Barça manager, who saw Kubala as older and slower and was looking forward to a quick change by the young Galician as the leader of the team. The debate reached the stands and the media. It was an absurd debate, because they didn't play in the same position, with whom Kubala really had a certain rivalry with Eulogio Martínez, who was the one with whom he alternated the position.
Kubala's physical problems were not only due to injuries. He had the whole of Spain in suspense when he suffered a tuberculosis that could have cost him his life. There are apocryphal versions that explain that this tuberculosis was actually a stab wound he suffered in a fight in a cheap pub in the fifth district (Barcelona's Chinatown) and he has to retire to Montseny to recover. Nobody is betting on his return to the pitch if he survives a "hole in the lung the size of a silver bullet" according to the chronicles of the time. But once again, Kubala's ability to survive prevails. He returns to the pitches, but already heavily punished and slowed down.
It is against this backdrop that the 1961 European Cup final arrives, with Kubala arriving at the age of 34 with a herniated disc that barely allows him to walk, but he wants to play. He knows that the club is going through a critical situation despite having reached the final of the maximum trophy for the first time: the club is bankrupt because of the construction of the Camp Nou, the fights in the board of directors are chaotic, Luis Suarez has signed for Inter (the one in Bern will be his last game with Barça), which was where Helenio Herrera had left the team in the hands of Enrique Orizaola.
Kubala tells Orizaola to line him up, that like all the Portuguese will go for him and he can barely move because of the back pain and will play with painkillers, it will give more opportunities to his teammates. But the match is a pile of misfortunes for Barcelona. Ramallets scores an own goal, Barça shoots three times to the damn square posts of the goals (from then on they would change their shape) even Kubala kicked a ball that hit a post, went through the goal line until it hit the other post and came out repelled. Barça lost and Kubala's time at Barcelona came to an end.

The man of the year.

Kubala's significance goes beyond the playing field. According to a vote made for Radio Barcelona by journalist Joaquín Soler Serrano in the mid-50s, the Catalans most loved by their fellow citizens were Doctor Barraquer and Ladislao Kubala.
"He was literally the most famous person in the city, people really venerated him, and even Messi's influence cannot be compared to that of Kubala in those years," explains Porta.
His life off the field was notorious. An unrepentant night owl, it was common to see him in Barcelona's fashionable coffee shops and nightclubs. He was a man who stood out. Alfredo Relaño defines him in some of his articles as "a demigod. Tall, strong, blond with blue eyes and an overflowing personality. He aroused the admiration of men and women alike. An idol". Frederic Porta sums it up with the argument that "he would be the sum of Messi and Beckham and on top of that, he would go out every night".
Faced with Kubala's disorganised life, the Barcelona management decided to set up a private detective agency to follow him at night. The reports of the detectives are still in the Centre de Documentació del FC Barcelona and Frederic Porta published them in the history magazine 'Sàpiens'. In them, he gives a detailed account of the nocturnal wanderings of "Mr. K.", the code name of the Blaugrana star in an exercise in absurd discretion. There is also a letter from a Sabadell businessman in the club's archives, expressing concern that Kubala and Czibor had been "found in a Sabadell establishment after 2.30 in the morning accompanied by some of those ladies who were once gentlemen, I don't know if you understand". What the businessman doesn't explain in the letter is what he was doing in the same place.
Kubala's fondness for drinking was no secret. Helenio Herrera explains in a television interview that "one day at an airport in customs they asked Kubala if he had anything to declare and he said two bottles of whisky. The official asked him to show them to him and he, laughing, touched his belly and said: 'X-ray, I have them inside'. On another occasion, in the same situation, but carrying the bottle in the bag, he was told to leave it at the airport because no alcoholic drinks were allowed to be taken on board. Neither shy nor lazy, he drank it in front of the astonished official.
The legends about the occasions when the night was made longer and he did not arrive at training sessions or matches were recurrent. In that case, he called on the services of Angel Mur Sr., the team masseur who knew where to find him. He would start a pilgrimage through the usual places or floors until he found him, took him to the changing room, gave him a cold shower, a coffee with salt, a massage and played. The fans forgave him everything and were aware that their star was a man of joyful life. But he never failed on the field. Among the crowd at the time there were comments about the Kubala ritual in those games that followed a busy night. "He started off badly, and vaguely, but the signal was when, ten minutes into the game, he rolled up his sleeves as if to say 'I'm here, let's start, I've already cleared off', and the machine started to work.
You can't find anyone in the world who speaks ill of Kubala. Absolutely no one. Everyone highlights his huge heart and that despite being by far the highest paid player of the time (he earned six times more than his teammates) he didn't have a no for anyone. His detachment from money was legendary.
As proof, the anecdote explained by his biographer Porta: "one day he arrived at the dressing room and commented that his car had been stolen and that in the glove compartment he was carrying an envelope with 200,000 pesetas, which was a fortune for the time (a good apartment could cost 130,000 pesetas). When his colleagues tried to encourage him, he simply said: someone who needs it more than I do must have taken it".
It was also usual for him to take off his coat and give it to a poor man who begged in Barcelona's winter, or to take in any Hungarian who came to Barcelona asking for help in his house in Carrer Duquesa d'Orleans. Kubala, remembering his times as a stateless refugee without papers, asked nothing. He would take them home and pay them a boat ticket to America. The motto among the refugees fleeing the Iron Curtain was that "if you get to Barcelona, look for Kubala, he will help you". He never failed.
Later, now retired, he set up a bar next to Czibor in Capitan Arenas Street, the mythical Kep Duna (blue Danube in Hungarian) that became an unofficial refugee reception centre that was monitored by the secret services of the United States, the USSR and the Spanish police. Something like the Rick's Café in the film Casablanca, but in the upper area of Barcelona.
He was the great character of Barcelona loved by all, but there was a moment when this was almost broken, strange as it may seem. It coincided with the defeat in Bern, when a part of the press came to write that "Barça must be de-Kubalized as the Soviet Union must be de-Stalinized" and, especially, when he signed for Espanyol. The earthquake was a huge one.

From the bench to Sarrià.

After the defeat in Bern's final, Kubala announced his retirement from the fields. He had taken the coaching course and was ranked number one in his class. He made a pact with the president Llaudet, who was also an interesting character as we will see, that in principle he would take charge of the footballers' school of the club and that in a couple of years he would be in charge of the first team.
Meanwhile, Barcelona is directed by Lluís Miró who faces a team in disarray. Suarez has been transferred to Inter in the worst decision in the club's history and myths such as Ramallets, Tejada and Czibor were in the decline of their careers. The season starts badly and after losing at Mestalla to Valencia by a humiliating 6-2 that forces the resignation of Miro. It was time for Kubala, who was promoted to the first team in front of the joy of the fans. And the project results from the beginning. The Barça of the second part of season 61-62 recovers in La Liga and finishes second (the distance with the white ones when Kubala arrived was almost insurmountable) and avenges the 6-2 of Mestalla beating Valencia in the Camp Nou 4-0.
Facing the next season, the 62-63, Kubala can make his team by giving painful drops of some of his former teammates as it is the case of Eulogio Martinez or Evaristo. One of Llaudet's reluctances to give Kubala the job of coach was that he would have to manage some of his former teammates.
The positive expectations about Kubala's first full project were frustrated at first when the Blaugrana team had to play the final of the Copa de Ferias against Valencia, the team that caused the fall of Miró and the promotion of Kubala. And the history, by rare that it seems, repeats: Valencia returns to him to put 6-2 to the Barça. The fans explode against the team. In the return match, obviously, there is nothing to do, but Llaudet's ability to self-flagellation has no limits. As Alfredo Relaño writes, the Blaugrana president calls a dinner with the press the day before the game and makes this statement that if it happened today would open all the news.
Llaudet, in front of the press and accompanied by the coach Kubala and Gràcia as captain, asks the fans to forgive him and announces changes in the protocol of the start of the second leg. "Valencia will go out first to receive the applause, then Barcelona, to receive the whistles. Then Kubala will come out, so he can get the thunders. And finally me, so that all the whistles fall on my person, because I am the barcelonist who loves the club the most and who is destined to die on the pitch, if necessary...". He ends his speech crying. As we can see, Gaspart didn't invent anything.
The match ended in a draw and Kubala's project as Barça's coach was doomed. The manager is fired in the middle of the season and then a bomb explodes in Barcelona. Kubala accepts the offer to return to the pitch, but not as a coach, will be as a player and nothing more and nothing less than in Espanyol, Barça's eternal rival.
On 3 September 1963 Espanyol, then Español, announced that Kubala would be hired as a player. At 36 years of age, he was capable of being competitive.
His decision divides the public opinion. On the one hand, Federico Gallo and Juan José Castillo support his decision, on the other hand, Carlos Pardo or Ibáñez Escofet shoot at him. They call him a "Jew who sells himself for a plate of beans", a "traitor" and they see political interests in his decision.
Kubala explains that he wanted to continue playing and that he saw himself capable of doing so, although he accepted that he was not at Barcelona's level. He had received offers from important clubs, including River Plate and Juventus, but he doesn't want to leave Barcelona, where he feels like another Barcelonian. The Espanyol meets his expectations.
His start of the season is not bad, on the contrary, he scores in his first two games, but the team doesn't work out. The coexistence between the veteran newcomer Kubala and the team's symbol, Argilés, is not easy. Scopelli is dismissed as coach and de facto command of the team is given to the two team leaders despite their differences. The crisis erupts when the Spaniard visits the Camp Nou. The periquitos lose by 5-0 in a match in which the Barcelona crowd booed Kubala who they are eager to humiliate with his new team. Even so, at the end of the match, Kubala has a gesture to his former team that shows that he does not hold any grudge against what he has heard from the stands. At the end of the match, he organizes his teammates to make the corridor to Barça applauding the rival in recognition of the exhibition made. That gesture feels bad among the Espanyol fans and among some of his teammates. Argilés does not make the corridor and goes straight to the changing rooms.
The following year, Kubala becomes a manager-player and among the departures that he causes, there is the one of Argilés, but by contrast, Di Stéfano arrives, also hurt by his bad exit from Madrid fighting against Bernabéu.
Di Stefano and Kubala are like brothers. Even though they haven't officially played together, they have a special chemistry. A friendship that is forged when the Argentinian is about to sign for Barcelona.
When Di Stéfano arrives in Barcelona to sign for Español, he stays first at the Avenida Palace Hotel, but after a month he is living in Kubala's house as one of the family. The children of both always maintained a relationship as if they were brothers.
One of the players under Kubala's command was Jose Maria Rodilla, one of the players who would soon form the famous 'Dolphins' forward line. At 80 years of age, Rodilla remembers Kubala.
"I have a wonderful memory of Kubala, I always had a special affection for him. Not in vain, he was the one who signed me for Espanyol", he remembers when answering the call of this newspaper to which he confesses that* "normally I do not make declarations, but to speak about Kubala I do whatever is needed"*.
Rodilla, former teammate at Espanyol, has clear that "he was the best player in the world in terms of technique. Di Stéfano was the best footballer, but he didn't have his technique. Alfredo was more intense and more player of the whole field, but he could not do things that Kubala did"
Those who had the privilege of playing with both of them remember that "for example, Di Stefano wouldn't leave you alone for a minute, he was all over you and the fights were intense, but he always set an example, he never asked you for anything that he didn't do. Kubala was more paternalistic and tolerant. For example, he would ask us to do as he did in training, and while sitting down he would be able to make 3,000 touches on the ball without dropping it. Only he could do that."
Rodilla adds a story that explains Kubala's quality as a player-coach at the age of 38: "We went to play a friendly at Amposta and they called a foul on the edge of the box. Kubala takes the ball and whacks it into the corner. The referee made him repeat it because someone had moved or I don't know what. Kubala takes the ball and wham, back to the square. And the referee tells him that he has to repeat. That day Kubala got angry and left the field."
Rodilla recalls that Kubala's move from Barça to Espanyol created controversy in the city, but that he was oblivious to it. "He was still a magnificent person, I never heard him say a bad word against anyone. He never got into an argument, he was goodness personified, he was unlucky in his time as a coach, but as a coach he is one of the best I've ever had, with a great love for young players and always trying to help you improve."

Boys well, optimal morale.

He extended his playing career for a couple more years by playing for Zurich and even trying out the American adventure at the Toronto Falcons, where he coincides with Branko and Daucik's son. At the age of 40 he played 19 games and scored 5 goals.
In 1968 he returned to Spain and trained the Córdoba team for a short period of time until he was called up to the national team. Kubala will manage the Spanish team until 1980, when he signs for Barcelona again as a coach.
Kubala's debut with Spain was, once again, a propaganda match for the regime. It was played in the Estadio de la Línea de la Concepción against Finland and Spain beat their rivals 6-0 in a match that was no longer useful. Spain had missed out on qualifying for the Mexico '70 World Cup, but the idea of that game was to showcase a great field that could be seen from Gibraltar as if to give jealousy to those in the Rock for the sports culture of Spain. Dictatorship things.
It's true that at that time Spain was struggling more than anything else on the international scene. It did not qualify for the 1974 World Cup because of Katalinski's goal in the play-off match in Frankfurt, and in both the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 European Championship the team fell in the first round, but there is still no one from that era who will make a judgement against Kubala.
"Kubala, one ahead of his time. No doubt he had a lot to do with his past as a footballer. And not just like any other player, like the best! I remember him always saying to me: 'Ruben, you have to get out of the way on the other side of the ball. Look for the space, not the ball. The goal I scored in Yugoslavia has to do with everything he taught me," he told Fermin de la Calle in an interview with AS Ruben Cano, the hero of the famous 'Battle of Belgrade' in the match that took Spain to the World Cup in Argentina. Yes, the one with the goal by Cardeñosa that could have changed Kubala's record with the national team.
He did a lot to improve Spanish football and his idea regarding the incorporation of foreigners to improve the level of Spanish football was key in the future development of the Spanish competitive level.
His players remember him as a didactic person, tactically bold and very close. At a time when fury was the hallmark of the game, Kubala never forgot that he was the heir to the Magyar tradition of the Honved and the Hungary who, by moving the ball, shocked the world the day they destroyed England at Wembley 3-6.
For the average football fan, Kubala may have been a half-hearted coach who embodied an era of the national team in which nothing was won, as has been the case most of the time, and he became popular for his expressions that would now be meme material on social networks. The national team was known as the 'Kubala boys' and the coach's catchphrase before the matches saying "boys well, optimal morale" was the fashionable phrase in the coffee shops of the 70s in Spain.
But among his colleagues, Kubala still deserved reverential respect. "The first goal was authentically Latin, cunningly scored and perfectly studied. I can only congratulate Kubala on his previous tactical work," said German boss Helmut Schön after facing and losing to Spain in a friendly in which the recent world semi-finalist and next world champion fell to the Kubala boys at the Sanchez Pizjuan with two strategic goals from Arieta. Yes, Arieta against Müller. Seeler, Beckembauer, Maier, Netzer and company.
He left the national team in 1980 to join Barça as the coach of Núñez's second project in an operation that was the prelude to what would happen in the World Cup in Russia with Lopetegui. Kubala committed to Barça while he was coach and tried to alternate functions, but Porta refused. Finally, on 8 June 1980, four days before the start of the European Championship, Kubala signed for the Blaugrana team, which he would join after the European Championship.
His second spell at the head of Barça did not go well either and he was dismissed mid-season. He continued his adventure on the bench as coach of Saudi Arabia (in that he was also a pioneer), training Malaga and the Paraguayan national team before retiring from football on the bench of Elche.
He spent his final years in Barcelona as active as ever. Playing with Barça veterans, helping his teammates, not having a no for anyone and playing tennis every day or going for a run or cycling routes exhibiting an enviable physical condition.
Until the light of genius and the glory faded away 18 years ago. A degenerative brain disease put an end to the adventure, but not to the legend of a world football myth. An icon that changed the lives of so many people that they wouldn't fit even in a stadium.
The coffin with the mortal remains of Kubala was carried on shoulders, amidst the applause of the fans who gathered at the doors of the church of Santa Tecla, by Alfredo Di Stéfano, Gustau Biosca, Eduardo Manchón, Estanislao Basora, Joan Segarra, Josep Bartomeu, Luis Suárez, Antoni Ramallets and Gonzalvo III.
He rests in the cemetery of Les Corts, next to the Camp Nou because that is what he left written in his will, while Serrat sang to him about how...
...Pelé was Pelé and Maradona was the one and that's it. Di Stéfano was a pit of mischief. Honour and glory to those who made the sun shine on our football. Everyone has his merits; to each his own, but for me none is like Kubala. Respectable silence is requested, for those who haven't enjoyed him, I'll say four things: he stops it with his head, he drops it on with his chest, he sleeps it off with his left, crosses the pitch with the ball attached to the boot, leaves the midfield and enters the box showing the ball, hides it with his body, pushes with his ass and gets in with his heels. He pisses on the centerback with a dedicated piece. and touches her gently to put her on the path to glory.

by Santi Gimenez for AS.com (2020)

submitted by HippoBigga to Barca [link] [comments]

Kubala, the path to glory of Barcelona's most loved legend: A story of overcoming, adventures, crazy nights, majestic matches and of a good man who made everybody around him happy.

Nothing in Kubala's life was normal. Now that TV series about sportsmen are fashionable, the one that could be made about the adventures of Ladislao Kubala Stecz (Budapest, 1927) would raze through many seasons. In one season we could go deeper into his facet of legendary footballer, capable of changing the way of playing this sport, how he saved his life at the very last moment by not getting on the Torino plane that crashed in Superga, or how he was ten minutes away from signing for Real Madrid or enrolling in the Pirate League of Colombia, all of this in order to end being Barcelona's biggest icon... who ended playing for Espanyol.
We could add a season of adventures due to his incredible escape from communist Hungary. His journey through Italy with a football team, the Hungaria, of stateless people in which in addition to Hungarians also played Croats, Albanians, Romanians and Serbs who were looking for a life as good as they could get. One could also add to this the facet of the social phenomenon that dazzled a country during the dark years of Franco's regime by becoming a pop star, and end up with another season about the legends, real, invented or simply exaggerated, of his adventures in Barcelona's nightclubs.
Everything about Kubala is like a movie.

The legend of the escape.

Born in Budapest to a Hungarian man and a Slovakian woman, he always considered himself as both Hungarian and Slovakian, even when this republic was part of the now extinct Czechoslovakia. By the age of 20, Kubala was a football star known for his performances with Slovan Bratislava and Vasas Budapest. In fact, he had already been capped by Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Later, he would go on to play for Spain, and is still the only player to have been capped by three countries. But fed up with the system that was preventing him from developing his professional football career, he embarked on an escape proper of a movie to the West. He contacted a human trafficking organisation, a mafia that, in exchange for a large amount of money, facilitated a partial escape. As is now the case with criminals who gamble with the lives of people who want to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe or pass to the United States through the southern border, the smugglers did not secure anything. The last part of the journey depended on the luck and expertise of the escapees and often ended tragically.
"I remember that when I escaped from Hungary I was just a kid. The traffickers left us in the middle of a mountain to do the last stretch on foot. We were a large group. The adults gathered the children and gave us palinka. A liquor similar to brandy to get us drunk and fall asleep. A child's cry could alert the border guards patrolling the mountain. And they had orders to shoot to kill. The group split in two. My group was lucky and we were able to win the Austrian border. Once we were safe, we learned that the other group that had travelled with us and took another road was discovered and killed." The chilling story is that of Zoltan Czibor, the son of the former Barça player who tells how he had to flee Hungary with his family to join his father in Italy. The odyssey of Kubala, six years earlier, was mirrored.
The traffickers disguised Kubala as a Russian soldier and put him in a truck that would leave the escapees at an undetermined point in the mountains so that they could cross the border into Austria on their own. Kubala remembered that this journey scared him to death because unlike his comrades, he was a national celebrity and any soldier who checked the military truck would recognize him. He was endangering his life and the lives of those who accompanied him.
When they were left in the mountain on January 27, 1949, Kubala walked, and crossing a river helped by a tire that carried him, managed to reach Innsbuck, Austria, without any documentation. He was a stateless man starting from scratch.
In Austria he managed to sign with Pro Patria, a team from Milan, but he could only play friendly matches. His escape provoked the anger of the Hungarian regime, which denounced him and blocked his registration. Kubala had married Anna Daucik two years earlier, sister of Fernando Daucik, a veteran player of the era who would later become a famous coach. When Kubala fled, he left behind his family, whom he was unable to reunite with until six months later, when Anna was able to cross the border and meet Ladislao in Udine. He arrived with one more member of the family. A baby, her firstborn, whom Kubala did not yet know.
While he is irregularly enrolled in the Pro Patria, he gets the chance to sign with Torino, Italy's dominant team at the time. He is offered a trial match. Nothing better than a friendly match that Il Grande Torino had in Lisbon as a tribute to Xico Ferreira. However, when the Turin team's plane is about to take off, the president of Torino prevents Kubala from boarding because he fears a federal sanction. On the return flight, on 4 May 1949, the Fiat G 212 of Avio Linee Italiana crashed into the retaining wall of the Basilica of Superga due to the wind, poor visibility and an error in the altimeter of the aircraft. At 180 kilometres per hour and with a visibility of 40 metres, the pilot saw the stone wall of the basilica too late when he thought the plane was at 2,000 metres and was actually at 690 metres above sea level. The 31 people who were travelling in that aircraft died. Kubala had saved his life again.

The legend of Hungaria.

With no possibility of playing in Italy because the back then very powerful Italian Communist Party was pressing to prevent people fleeing from countries in the orbit of the USSR from taking refuge in Italy, Kubala had no choice but to form a team of stateless people who hired their services throughout Europe to play friendly matches against whoever hired them.
The team was called Hungaria, was managed by his brother-in-law Fernando Daucik and was mainly made up of Hungarians, although there were also players of other nationalities. It was made up of: Kis, Marik, Torok, Mogoy, Lami, Rákosi, Hrotko, Majteny, Nagy, Kubala, Otto, Licker, Turbeky, Monsider (Croatian), De Lorenzi (Albanian), Szegedi (Romanian) and Arangelovic (Serbian).
They played their first match against Italy's B team, but again pressure from the PCI forced them to play outside Italy. And that is how they arrived in Spain, hired by Santiago Bernabéu. On June 5, 1950, they faced Real Madrid in Chamartin, losing 4-2, but with a stellar performance by Kubala, who scored both of his team's goals. Three days later, they beat the Spanish team that was preparing for the World Cup in Brazil, where they came in fourth, 1-2 again with a great performance by Kubala, who received an offer from Real Madrid to be signed.
Kubala requires that to join the team, Madrid must also hire Daucik as a coach, something that Bernabéu does not agree to. The Madrid coach at that time was the Briton Keeping, a great connoisseur of WM tactics. Daucik is offered to train the Plus Ultra, a Madrid branch that plays in the third division. That negative and the federative problems that drags Kubala cause that Madrid becomes disinterested in his transfer, that was already agreed lacking of some fringes that turned out to be determinant.
The Hungaria moves two days later to Barcelona, where on June 10 plays against Espanyol losing 6-4 in a match with Pepe Samitier, the technical secretary of Barça, in the stands. It is necessary to emphasize that Hungaria had been playing three matches in five days with a very short team and without being able to make substitutions. Even so, Kubala amazes and Samitier does not mess around. Six days after that match, on 16 June 1950, at half past six in the evening, Kubala signed his three-year contract with Barça at the Pasaje Méndez Vigo. Obviously, with Fernando Daucik as coach. President Montal, Sr., signed him as an "amateur player" in order to avoid any trouble for the federation.
Real Madrid rages and is shocked. Pablo Hernández, general secretary of the white entity and Santiago Bernabéu's right hand, assures that Barça had broken a non-aggression pact between both teams and had hired a player with whom they were in talks. Samitier, who was unbeatable in the media, declares that he had been following Kubala for months and that the pact had not been broken because it referred only to players who played in Spanish teams. And Hungaria was not Spanish. In fact, it wasn't from anywhere.
But Kubala's problems didn't end there. He still didn't have a registration card or an international certificate. Vasas in Budapest and the Hungarian Federation had reported him to FIFA. Barça used the weak argument that since professionalism had been abolished in Hungary, any amateur player could choose his destiny. But the fight was not going to be so easy.
Barça, it is fair to say, had the total support of the regime and the Federation to carry out the transfer. At the level of anti-communist propaganda, Kubala was perfect. A young and extraordinary sportsman who fled from the red hell to take refuge in Franco's Spain was a candy too sweet to let go. Muñoz Calero, president of the Federation, rowed in favor of Barça as did Ricardo Cabot, secretary of the organization, who, in addition to his affection for the regime, was a well-known Barcelona supporter.
But the procedures were very slow and Kubala could only play friendly matches. He made his debut against Osasuna on 12 October, scoring two goals on the day the Barça fans knew instantly that they had just signed a star. Then he played against Zaragoza, Frankfurt twice, Girona and the Badalona. In six friendlies he scored 11 goals. The fans and the player himself were eager to meet in an official match. For all this, the Federation to play the role with FIFA fined Barça every time he lined up Kubala with the symbolic figure of 50 pesetas.
It is at this time that Kubala is about to leave everything and go away from Barça. He needed the money and wanted to play at the highest level and in Colombia he was offered the chance to do so. The South American country had organised the so-called Pirate League outside FIFA and many of the world's biggest stars joined, including Alfredo Di Stefano who went to Millonarios in Bogota. Kubala had a tempting offer from Atletico Bucaramanga. With the option of Kubala leaving, events accelerated. To begin with, Barça fixed his financial situation by means of a peculiar amateur contract in which they paid him 1,200 pesetas for "compensation" and 3,800 for "encouragement and overfeeding".
On April 2, 1951, he was granted the status of political refugee as a stateless person, which was a step towards granting him Spanish nationality. But for this step, Kubala first had to be converted to Catholicism through the sacrament of baptism. Every Spaniard had to be a Catholic. Kubala was baptized in Aguilas, Murcia, the birthplace of Muñoz Calero, president of the Federation. It is then when Barça, to avoid problems, settles its differences economically with Vasas, which despite being against capitalism accepts a payment of 300,000 pesetas to provide the transfer, while the Pro Patria, which also complained, is satisfied with 12 million lire.
The Kubala era could now really commence.

The legend on the field.

Kubala made his official debut with Barcelona in Sevilla in a cup match. The Sevillistas at that time were one of the best teams. Sevilla and Barça had developed in that period a great rivalry in the high places of the table. In 1946 Sevilla had stolen the possibility of winning the championship from Barça by drawing in Les Corts on the last day, in 1948 Barça beat the Sevillians in the final of the Eva Perón Cup (which would be the current Supercup) and in that campaign a Barça without Kubala had lost all its options to win La Liga after losing 4-0 in Nervión three days before the end of the season.
The Cup, by that time was played once the regular season was over and in those circumstances the official debut of Kubala took place. On April 29th in Nervion, Barça arrived to play against Sevilla in the middle of a difficult atmosphere. The Andalusians had lost the league in a dramatic outcome when they drew at home in the last match against Atletico Madrid with a refereeing performance that the locals judged scandalous. For further concern, the Federation allowed Kubala to line up with Barça in the first round of the Cup, which in Sevilla was taken as a surprise.
With the stadium full to the flag, Barcelona defeated Sevilla in an exhibition of Kubala. He wasn't just the best of the match but he showed Spain a way of playing football unthinkable until that time: chest controls, shots with curve, millimetric changes of play of 40 meters, protection of the ball with his back, use of the body in the shot and touches with the heel.
Domenech, Sevilla's attacker who was the direct protagonist of that match, explained years later how he remembered that day.
"It was something never seen before. Ramallets kicked it and he would receive her with his chest, or with either of his legs. If you tackled him he would dribble you in a brick. He'd put the ball where he wanted her. Besides, from time to time he changed with César, he'd be a center forward and César would be a midfielder. They drove us crazy. The anger of the people became clamours. We were witnessing something extraordinary. It was like going from black and white cinema to colour," explained the former Sevilla player. The Sevilla crowd, who had welcomed Barça and its new superstar with anger, ended up giving Kubala a standing ovation for every action as if they were watching a glorious bullfighting performance.
Kubala's actions on the field change football forever. Since there was no television, his exploits are reported orally. There is no other way to see it than to go to the field of Les Corts, which is packed for every game Barça plays as a local. It is a very common argument to say that Kubala forced Barça to build the Camp Nou because the old Les Corts was not enough to accommodate all the people who wanted to admire him. Maybe he had an influence, but as the journalist Frederic Porta, author of an interesting biography of Kubala (Kubala, l'heroi que va canviar la història del Barça. Ed. Saldonar) explains, "the truth is that Barça had already bought the land to build the Camp Nou two years before and the idea of making a bigger field already existed, but Kubala advanced everything and justified the change".
Blessed with brutal technique, a sensational strike of the ball and an unusual physical strength, Kubala changed football. He would throw free-kicks over the wall with curve or by making the ball bounce in front of the goalkeeper, he would take penalties (he was practically infallible) with what was later called paradinha and was credited with the Brazilians although he was the first in Europe to do so. Physically he was a bull. In his youth he had practiced boxing and if he didn't become a recognized fighter with a great career it was because he had short arms. His lower body was sensational. He had a butt and legs that allowed him to protect the ball like no one else. Frederic Porta says that "in his time of splendour they measured his thighs and each one had a circumference of 69 centimetres, which would be the waist of one of his companions". He was also capable of running the 100 metres in less than 11 seconds. A total athlete with a very refined technique.
However, that physical strength and the confidence he had in her, for he never avoided a collision, were his downfall. Kubala became the target of a hunt by rival defenders. He never went into hiding and that's why in eleven years at Barcelona he suffered up to eleven injuries of some seriousness. With matches without television, the harshness that bordered on violence was the order of the day. He was being kicked to death.
But Barça was living its most golden period to date. Moreover, the club revolved around Kubala. Frederic Porta compares it with the present time: "Now they say that Messi commands the club and surely he commands, but nothing to do with the influence that Kubala had. Kubala was the boss and even the one who decided the transfers. And no one was surprised. That Barça adopted the socks with the horizontal stripes blaugrana is his imposition. He saw them on the rugby team, liked them and incorporated them into the football team by decree. In fact, it is he who insists on signing Luis Suarez when he impresses him in a match against Deportivo. Kubala was Suarez's first fan, but what happened in the stands, which was divided between Suaristas and Kubalistas, is another matter.
Suarez was eight years younger than Kubala. He arrived at Barcelona at the age of 19, Kubala was 27 and his physique was very punished by his injuries and the life he was living, as he did not deprive himself of anything. If he held out, it was because of privileged genetics.
Therefore, there never was a real competition between them, but there was a lot of influence here from the figure of Helenio Herrera, the Barça manager, who saw Kubala as older and slower and was looking forward to a quick change by the young Galician as the leader of the team. The debate reached the stands and the media. It was an absurd debate, because they didn't play in the same position, with whom Kubala really had a certain rivalry with Eulogio Martínez, who was the one with whom he alternated the position.
Kubala's physical problems were not only due to injuries. He had the whole of Spain in suspense when he suffered a tuberculosis that could have cost him his life. There are apocryphal versions that explain that this tuberculosis was actually a stab wound he suffered in a fight in a cheap pub in the fifth district (Barcelona's Chinatown) and he has to retire to Montseny to recover. Nobody is betting on his return to the pitch if he survives a "hole in the lung the size of a silver bullet" according to the chronicles of the time. But once again, Kubala's ability to survive prevails. He returns to the pitches, but already heavily punished and slowed down.
It is against this backdrop that the 1961 European Cup final arrives, with Kubala arriving at the age of 34 with a herniated disc that barely allows him to walk, but he wants to play. He knows that the club is going through a critical situation despite having reached the final of the maximum trophy for the first time: the club is bankrupt because of the construction of the Camp Nou, the fights in the board of directors are chaotic, Luis Suarez has signed for Inter (the one in Bern will be his last game with Barça), which was where Helenio Herrera had left the team in the hands of Enrique Orizaola.
Kubala tells Orizaola to line him up, that like all the Portuguese will go for him and he can barely move because of the back pain and will play with painkillers, it will give more opportunities to his teammates. But the match is a pile of misfortunes for Barcelona. Ramallets scores an own goal, Barça shoots three times to the damn square posts of the goals (from then on they would change their shape) even Kubala kicked a ball that hit a post, went through the goal line until it hit the other post and came out repelled. Barça lost and Kubala's time at Barcelona came to an end.

The man of the year.

Kubala's significance goes beyond the playing field. According to a vote made for Radio Barcelona by journalist Joaquín Soler Serrano in the mid-50s, the Catalans most loved by their fellow citizens were Doctor Barraquer and Ladislao Kubala.
"He was literally the most famous person in the city, people really venerated him, and even Messi's influence cannot be compared to that of Kubala in those years," explains Porta.
His life off the field was notorious. An unrepentant night owl, it was common to see him in Barcelona's fashionable coffee shops and nightclubs. He was a man who stood out. Alfredo Relaño defines him in some of his articles as "a demigod. Tall, strong, blond with blue eyes and an overflowing personality. He aroused the admiration of men and women alike. An idol". Frederic Porta sums it up with the argument that "he would be the sum of Messi and Beckham and on top of that, he would go out every night".
Faced with Kubala's disorganised life, the Barcelona management decided to set up a private detective agency to follow him at night. The reports of the detectives are still in the Centre de Documentació del FC Barcelona and Frederic Porta published them in the history magazine 'Sàpiens'. In them, he gives a detailed account of the nocturnal wanderings of "Mr. K.", the code name of the Blaugrana star in an exercise in absurd discretion. There is also a letter from a Sabadell businessman in the club's archives, expressing concern that Kubala and Czibor had been "found in a Sabadell establishment after 2.30 in the morning accompanied by some of those ladies who were once gentlemen, I don't know if you understand". What the businessman doesn't explain in the letter is what he was doing in the same place.
Kubala's fondness for drinking was no secret. Helenio Herrera explains in a television interview that "one day at an airport in customs they asked Kubala if he had anything to declare and he said two bottles of whisky. The official asked him to show them to him and he, laughing, touched his belly and said: 'X-ray, I have them inside'. On another occasion, in the same situation, but carrying the bottle in the bag, he was told to leave it at the airport because no alcoholic drinks were allowed to be taken on board. Neither shy nor lazy, he drank it in front of the astonished official.
The legends about the occasions when the night was made longer and he did not arrive at training sessions or matches were recurrent. In that case, he called on the services of Angel Mur Sr., the team masseur who knew where to find him. He would start a pilgrimage through the usual places or floors until he found him, took him to the changing room, gave him a cold shower, a coffee with salt, a massage and played. The fans forgave him everything and were aware that their star was a man of joyful life. But he never failed on the field. Among the crowd at the time there were comments about the Kubala ritual in those games that followed a busy night. "He started off badly, and vaguely, but the signal was when, ten minutes into the game, he rolled up his sleeves as if to say 'I'm here, let's start, I've already cleared off', and the machine started to work.
You can't find anyone in the world who speaks ill of Kubala. Absolutely no one. Everyone highlights his huge heart and that despite being by far the highest paid player of the time (he earned six times more than his teammates) he didn't have a no for anyone. His detachment from money was legendary.
As proof, the anecdote explained by his biographer Porta: "one day he arrived at the dressing room and commented that his car had been stolen and that in the glove compartment he was carrying an envelope with 200,000 pesetas, which was a fortune for the time (a good apartment could cost 130,000 pesetas). When his colleagues tried to encourage him, he simply said: someone who needs it more than I do must have taken it".
It was also usual for him to take off his coat and give it to a poor man who begged in Barcelona's winter, or to take in any Hungarian who came to Barcelona asking for help in his house in Carrer Duquesa d'Orleans. Kubala, remembering his times as a stateless refugee without papers, asked nothing. He would take them home and pay them a boat ticket to America. The motto among the refugees fleeing the Iron Curtain was that "if you get to Barcelona, look for Kubala, he will help you". He never failed.
Later, now retired, he set up a bar next to Czibor in Capitan Arenas Street, the mythical Kep Duna (blue Danube in Hungarian) that became an unofficial refugee reception centre that was monitored by the secret services of the United States, the USSR and the Spanish police. Something like the Rick's Café in the film Casablanca, but in the upper area of Barcelona.
He was the great character of Barcelona loved by all, but there was a moment when this was almost broken, strange as it may seem. It coincided with the defeat in Bern, when a part of the press came to write that "Barça must be de-Kubalized as the Soviet Union must be de-Stalinized" and, especially, when he signed for Espanyol. The earthquake was a huge one.

From the bench to Sarrià.

After the defeat in Bern's final, Kubala announced his retirement from the fields. He had taken the coaching course and was ranked number one in his class. He made a pact with the president Llaudet, who was also an interesting character as we will see, that in principle he would take charge of the footballers' school of the club and that in a couple of years he would be in charge of the first team.
Meanwhile, Barcelona is directed by Lluís Miró who faces a team in disarray. Suarez has been transferred to Inter in the worst decision in the club's history and myths such as Ramallets, Tejada and Czibor were in the decline of their careers. The season starts badly and after losing at Mestalla to Valencia by a humiliating 6-2 that forces the resignation of Miro. It was time for Kubala, who was promoted to the first team in front of the joy of the fans. And the project results from the beginning. The Barça of the second part of season 61-62 recovers in La Liga and finishes second (the distance with the white ones when Kubala arrived was almost insurmountable) and avenges the 6-2 of Mestalla beating Valencia in the Camp Nou 4-0.
Facing the next season, the 62-63, Kubala can make his team by giving painful drops of some of his former teammates as it is the case of Eulogio Martinez or Evaristo. One of Llaudet's reluctances to give Kubala the job of coach was that he would have to manage some of his former teammates.
The positive expectations about Kubala's first full project were frustrated at first when the Blaugrana team had to play the final of the Copa de Ferias against Valencia, the team that caused the fall of Miró and the promotion of Kubala. And the history, by rare that it seems, repeats: Valencia returns to him to put 6-2 to the Barça. The fans explode against the team. In the return match, obviously, there is nothing to do, but Llaudet's ability to self-flagellation has no limits. As Alfredo Relaño writes, the Blaugrana president calls a dinner with the press the day before the game and makes this statement that if it happened today would open all the news.
Llaudet, in front of the press and accompanied by the coach Kubala and Gràcia as captain, asks the fans to forgive him and announces changes in the protocol of the start of the second leg. "Valencia will go out first to receive the applause, then Barcelona, to receive the whistles. Then Kubala will come out, so he can get the thunders. And finally me, so that all the whistles fall on my person, because I am the barcelonist who loves the club the most and who is destined to die on the pitch, if necessary...". He ends his speech crying. As we can see, Gaspart didn't invent anything.
The match ended in a draw and Kubala's project as Barça's coach was doomed. The manager is fired in the middle of the season and then a bomb explodes in Barcelona. Kubala accepts the offer to return to the pitch, but not as a coach, will be as a player and nothing more and nothing less than in Espanyol, Barça's eternal rival.
On 3 September 1963 Espanyol, then Español, announced that Kubala would be hired as a player. At 36 years of age, he was capable of being competitive.
His decision divides the public opinion. On the one hand, Federico Gallo and Juan José Castillo support his decision, on the other hand, Carlos Pardo or Ibáñez Escofet shoot at him. They call him a "Jew who sells himself for a plate of beans", a "traitor" and they see political interests in his decision.
Kubala explains that he wanted to continue playing and that he saw himself capable of doing so, although he accepted that he was not at Barcelona's level. He had received offers from important clubs, including River Plate and Juventus, but he doesn't want to leave Barcelona, where he feels like another Barcelonian. The Espanyol meets his expectations.
His start of the season is not bad, on the contrary, he scores in his first two games, but the team doesn't work out. The coexistence between the veteran newcomer Kubala and the team's symbol, Argilés, is not easy. Scopelli is dismissed as coach and de facto command of the team is given to the two team leaders despite their differences. The crisis erupts when the Spaniard visits the Camp Nou. The periquitos lose by 5-0 in a match in which the Barcelona crowd booed Kubala who they are eager to humiliate with his new team. Even so, at the end of the match, Kubala has a gesture to his former team that shows that he does not hold any grudge against what he has heard from the stands. At the end of the match, he organizes his teammates to make the corridor to Barça applauding the rival in recognition of the exhibition made. That gesture feels bad among the Espanyol fans and among some of his teammates. Argilés does not make the corridor and goes straight to the changing rooms.
The following year, Kubala becomes a manager-player and among the departures that he causes, there is the one of Argilés, but by contrast, Di Stéfano arrives, also hurt by his bad exit from Madrid fighting against Bernabéu.
Di Stefano and Kubala are like brothers. Even though they haven't officially played together, they have a special chemistry. A friendship that is forged when the Argentinian is about to sign for Barcelona.
When Di Stéfano arrives in Barcelona to sign for Español, he stays first at the Avenida Palace Hotel, but after a month he is living in Kubala's house as one of the family. The children of both always maintained a relationship as if they were brothers.
One of the players under Kubala's command was Jose Maria Rodilla, one of the players who would soon form the famous 'Dolphins' forward line. At 80 years of age, Rodilla remembers Kubala.
"I have a wonderful memory of Kubala, I always had a special affection for him. Not in vain, he was the one who signed me for Espanyol", he remembers when answering the call of this newspaper to which he confesses that* "normally I do not make declarations, but to speak about Kubala I do whatever is needed"*.
Rodilla, former teammate at Espanyol, has clear that "he was the best player in the world in terms of technique. Di Stéfano was the best footballer, but he didn't have his technique. Alfredo was more intense and more player of the whole field, but he could not do things that Kubala did"
Those who had the privilege of playing with both of them remember that "for example, Di Stefano wouldn't leave you alone for a minute, he was all over you and the fights were intense, but he always set an example, he never asked you for anything that he didn't do. Kubala was more paternalistic and tolerant. For example, he would ask us to do as he did in training, and while sitting down he would be able to make 3,000 touches on the ball without dropping it. Only he could do that."
Rodilla adds a story that explains Kubala's quality as a player-coach at the age of 38: "We went to play a friendly at Amposta and they called a foul on the edge of the box. Kubala takes the ball and whacks it into the corner. The referee made him repeat it because someone had moved or I don't know what. Kubala takes the ball and wham, back to the square. And the referee tells him that he has to repeat. That day Kubala got angry and left the field."
Rodilla recalls that Kubala's move from Barça to Espanyol created controversy in the city, but that he was oblivious to it. "He was still a magnificent person, I never heard him say a bad word against anyone. He never got into an argument, he was goodness personified, he was unlucky in his time as a coach, but as a coach he is one of the best I've ever had, with a great love for young players and always trying to help you improve."

Boys well, optimal morale.

He extended his playing career for a couple more years by playing for Zurich and even trying out the American adventure at the Toronto Falcons, where he coincides with Branko and Daucik's son. At the age of 40 he played 19 games and scored 5 goals.
In 1968 he returned to Spain and trained the Córdoba team for a short period of time until he was called up to the national team. Kubala will manage the Spanish team until 1980, when he signs for Barcelona again as a coach.
Kubala's debut with Spain was, once again, a propaganda match for the regime. It was played in the Estadio de la Línea de la Concepción against Finland and Spain beat their rivals 6-0 in a match that was no longer useful. Spain had missed out on qualifying for the Mexico '70 World Cup, but the idea of that game was to showcase a great field that could be seen from Gibraltar as if to give jealousy to those in the Rock for the sports culture of Spain. Dictatorship things.
It's true that at that time Spain was struggling more than anything else on the international scene. It did not qualify for the 1974 World Cup because of Katalinski's goal in the play-off match in Frankfurt, and in both the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 European Championship the team fell in the first round, but there is still no one from that era who will make a judgement against Kubala.
"Kubala, one ahead of his time. No doubt he had a lot to do with his past as a footballer. And not just like any other player, like the best! I remember him always saying to me: 'Ruben, you have to get out of the way on the other side of the ball. Look for the space, not the ball. The goal I scored in Yugoslavia has to do with everything he taught me," he told Fermin de la Calle in an interview with AS Ruben Cano, the hero of the famous 'Battle of Belgrade' in the match that took Spain to the World Cup in Argentina. Yes, the one with the goal by Cardeñosa that could have changed Kubala's record with the national team.
He did a lot to improve Spanish football and his idea regarding the incorporation of foreigners to improve the level of Spanish football was key in the future development of the Spanish competitive level.
His players remember him as a didactic person, tactically bold and very close. At a time when fury was the hallmark of the game, Kubala never forgot that he was the heir to the Magyar tradition of the Honved and the Hungary who, by moving the ball, shocked the world the day they destroyed England at Wembley 3-6.
For the average football fan, Kubala may have been a half-hearted coach who embodied an era of the national team in which nothing was won, as has been the case most of the time, and he became popular for his expressions that would now be meme material on social networks. The national team was known as the 'Kubala boys' and the coach's catchphrase before the matches saying "boys well, optimal morale" was the fashionable phrase in the coffee shops of the 70s in Spain.
But among his colleagues, Kubala still deserved reverential respect. "The first goal was authentically Latin, cunningly scored and perfectly studied. I can only congratulate Kubala on his previous tactical work," said German boss Helmut Schön after facing and losing to Spain in a friendly in which the recent world semi-finalist and next world champion fell to the Kubala boys at the Sanchez Pizjuan with two strategic goals from Arieta. Yes, Arieta against Müller. Seeler, Beckembauer, Maier, Netzer and company.
He left the national team in 1980 to join Barça as the coach of Núñez's second project in an operation that was the prelude to what would happen in the World Cup in Russia with Lopetegui. Kubala committed to Barça while he was coach and tried to alternate functions, but Porta refused. Finally, on 8 June 1980, four days before the start of the European Championship, Kubala signed for the Blaugrana team, which he would join after the European Championship.
His second spell at the head of Barça did not go well either and he was dismissed mid-season. He continued his adventure on the bench as coach of Saudi Arabia (in that he was also a pioneer), training Malaga and the Paraguayan national team before retiring from football on the bench of Elche.
He spent his final years in Barcelona as active as ever. Playing with Barça veterans, helping his teammates, not having a no for anyone and playing tennis every day or going for a run or cycling routes exhibiting an enviable physical condition.
Until the light of genius and the glory faded away 18 years ago. A degenerative brain disease put an end to the adventure, but not to the legend of a world football myth. An icon that changed the lives of so many people that they wouldn't fit even in a stadium.
The coffin with the mortal remains of Kubala was carried on shoulders, amidst the applause of the fans who gathered at the doors of the church of Santa Tecla, by Alfredo Di Stéfano, Gustau Biosca, Eduardo Manchón, Estanislao Basora, Joan Segarra, Josep Bartomeu, Luis Suárez, Antoni Ramallets and Gonzalvo III.
He rests in the cemetery of Les Corts, next to the Camp Nou because that is what he left written in his will, while Serrat sang to him about how...
...Pelé was Pelé and Maradona was the one and that's it. Di Stéfano was a pit of mischief. Honour and glory to those who made the sun shine on our football. Everyone has his merits; to each his own, but for me none is like Kubala. Respectable silence is requested, for those who haven't enjoyed him, I'll say four things: he stops it with his head, he drops it on with his chest, he sleeps it off with his left, crosses the pitch with the ball attached to the boot, leaves the midfield and enters the box showing the ball, hides it with his body, pushes with his ass and gets in with his heels. He pisses on the centerback with a dedicated piece. and touches her gently to put her on the path to glory.

by Santi Gimenez for AS.com (2020)

submitted by LordVelaryon to soccer [link] [comments]

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