And Another One Gone

The greatest Hungarian soccer player ever has died at 79. Puskas Ferenc, whose family name means “gun”, was the leader of a Hungarian team that won the Olympic gold medal in 1952 and took Hungary to the World Cup Final in 1954. It is remembered by soccer afficionados as the greatest Hungarian team of all time, and one of the five or six best teams ever assembled.

It is a hard thing to be Hungarian. Your greatest achievement in the sporting world – the only place nations can measure themselves against other nations without killing people – is a runner-up to West Germany over 50 years ago. Your greatest player in the national sport played professionally in Spain. The last time a Hungarian team made the UEFA Cup second round was 1988. It’s almost impossible for Americans to understand, but those of us who lived there feel a keen sense of protectivism toward the poor, shorn little country, now about 1/3 its former size after being split into six pieces after World War I. It lost WWII twice, once to the Nazis on the way East, and once to the Soviets on the way west.

The language is unlike any other on earth, one of the three or four hardest to learn. It shares roots and rhythm with Finnish, but I know Finns who visited Hungary and they couldn’t make anything out of the language. There are only about 15 million Hungarians in the country, and another probably 10 million outside the borders, the vast majority of whom do not speak very much Hungarian anymore. The language and culture are disappearing. This is not unique to Hungary, of course. It happens everywhere.

Feri, hianyozlak. Legy bekes, es majd beszelgetunk a focirol odafent. Szia.

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