Kálmán Mészöly passes away at the age of 81

The legendary figure of Hungarian football, who participated in the World Cup with the national team as a player and as the national team manager, passed away on Monday.

Kálmán Mészöly became a professional footballer at the age of eleven, in 1952, in the youth team of the III. district. At that time he played left-back, but as their midfielder did not show up for the match against the Red Flag, he was moved to the centre of the defence.

Kálmán Mészöly made his debut in the top flight on 9 April 1960, in a match against BTC Salgótarján. That same month he was a member of the Hungarian national team that triumphed in the UEFA tournament in Vienna, the actual European Youth Championship.

In his first full season in the top flight, he won the title with the Red and Blue, and in his second, he was selected for the senior team (making his debut against the hosts in Santiago de Chile on 13 December 1961), defending his first title with Vasas. 

The next four years were full of success, perhaps the peak of his career. In 1965 and 1966 he won the championship again with Vasas, and in 1965 he won the Central European Cup for the second time with his team, scoring the decisive goal from a penalty in the penalty shoot-out against Fiorentina. "It was Vasas in 1965 and 1966, when we won the championship twice, the second time unbeaten. We went everywhere together, went to the cinema and the theatre with the women, really, like a big family. I think that's the ideal team. Of course, it can't last for 8-10 years, because players change, but that's the kind of team you have to strive for."

With the national team, he finished fourth in the 1964 European Championship and reached the quarter-finals of the 1966 World Cup. The tournament in England produced one of the most memorable matches of his career, a 3-1 victory over Brazil. Not just because he scored from a penalty, but because he played part of the second half with his arms tied up in terrible pain. Five days later he was back in the game, scoring against the Bulgarians. 

The following year, he found success again with Vasas: after winning the Hexagonal tournament in Chile, he was immediately signed by Santos, as he had been by Real Madrid and Internazionale. Of course, that was out of the question...

His relationship with the Vasas management had deteriorated, but there was even talk of a possible transfer to Ferencváros. The team's coach, Dr. Károly Lakat, wanted him as much as Flórián Albert, who was probably Mészöly's best friend among the footballers after János Farkas.

In the early seventies he was banned by Vasas, then he decided to quit football at the age of thirty and became the coach of Budafok. It was at that time that the 'oddity' occurred that he was not invited to play for the Hungarian national team, but he was invited to play - and went out, played and scored - in Lev Yasin's farewell game for the world team.

He still returned, but then in February 1974, in an unforgettable farewell match, he retired from active play for good. He became a coach. At home, he managed Ganz-MÁVAG (1972-1973), Budafoki MTE (1974-1976), Békéscsabai Előre Spartacus (1976-1978), Vasas (1978-1980, 1988, 1989, 1993-1994), and abroad for Fenerbahçe (1985-1986), Altay Izmir (1986), AEL Limassol (1997-1998) and al-Ittihad FC (1991-1992) in Saudi Arabia, and was sports director in Zalaegerszeg in 1988. He also briefly managed the Turkish national team in 1985.

He was the only player in the history of Hungarian football to take part in a World Cup as a player and as manager (1982). In three spells (1980-1983, 1990-1991, 1994-1995) he was in charge of the national team a total of 61 times. He played an equal number of matches as a player and as captain. He is the record holder in terms of caps as a player and manager in Hungarian football. Just as he and his son Géza are the only family in which both father (adult World Cup, 1982) and son (U20 World Cup, 2015) have taken the Hungarian team to the World Cup. 

After retiring from coaching, he worked as a consultant for the Hungarian Football Association for many years. In 2011 he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, in 2018 he received the MLSZ Lifetime Achievement Award and in the same year he was elected honorary citizen of Budapest. Kálmán Mészöly was hospitalised with a serious illness several weeks ago and passed away on Monday at the age of 81.

On behalf of our club, we extend our sincere condolences to the family of Kálmán Mészöly. Rest in peace!

Szerző: David Rechnitzer

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