BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Gyula Grosics, goalkeeper for the ‘Magical Magyars’ Hungarian soccer team that were virtually unbeatable in the early 1950s, died on Friday, his family told the national news agency MTI. He was 88.
He had been ill for some time with lung problems.
Grosics was considered the cornerstone of Hungary’s legendary team that rose to prominence when they thrashed England 6-3 at Wembley Stadium in 1953, the first side from outside the British Isles to defeat the English on home soil.
“We played very well that time but basically we have to give credit to the English, who made a big fuss about the 6-3. They blew it up to be a world sensation, they treated the match as the game of the century,” Grosics said in a 2012 interview.
Grosics made 88 appearances for Hungary between 1947 and 1962, winning an Olympic gold medal at the Helsinki Games in 1952, with the side considered heavy favorites to lift the 1954 World Cup on the back of a four-year unbeaten streak.
Despite winning four straight games to reach the final, Hungary suffered a shock 3-2 defeat to West Germany, who they had thrashed 8-3 in the group stage, in a historic upset that has haunted Hungarian football ever since.
From 1950 to 1956, the team recorded 42 victories, seven draws and just that one defeat but fell into decline in the second half of the century with Hungary failing to qualify for the World Cup finals since 1986.
The keeper, nicknamed Black Panther, was credited with developing the “sweeper-keeper” style of play, when the goalie acts as an extra defender when needed.
Grosics was born and started his career in Dorog, northern Hungary, and later played for Budapest Honved alongside a number of other Magical Magyars greats. He retired from football in 1962.
In 2008, at 82, he played a few minutes for his beloved club Ferencvaros in Budapest, 46 years after the Communist regime, an authority he frequently found himself at odds with, refused to allow him to sign for them.
Grosics performed the kick-off in a friendly against Sheffield United and stood in goal for a few minutes before being substituted.
After attempting to defect and getting caught in 1949, he was investigated by the secret service and charged with espionage and treason.
He was placed under house arrest and faced trial but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence. He was, however, banned from the national team for two years but was playing again a year later.
During Hungary’s anti-Communist revolution in 1956, Grosics took his family out of the country and looked to start a new life abroad, but he was forced to return and transferred from Honved to the rural mining town team Tatabanya.
He would remain with that club for the rest of his career, although they were never able to finish higher than fourth in the league. The soccer stadium in Tatabanya was named after him in 2011.
Editing by John O'Brien