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Kálmán Mészöly, the best Hungarian center back of all time, 61-time national team player, legend of Vasas, passed away at the age of 82. “Szőke Szikla” was the captain of the Hungarian national team in three parts (between 1980-1983, 1990-1991 and 1994-1995), and only one person, Frigyes Minder, was asked to be the manager of the national team, four times before the turn of the century. Mészöly sat on the national team’s bench 61 times, the same number of times he wore the crested shirt. He was also the captain of the Turkish national team, and in 1985, on a Budapest-Istanbul flight, he met his second wife, Gyöngyi Bardi, the 329-time national volleyball player – although the proposal and marriage took place only 14 years later.

Mészöly III. he got acquainted with football in the district TVE, from there he transferred from Óbuda to Vasas at the age of 18, where he did not leave until his retirement in 1972. He was already a European youth champion at the age of 20, when Lajos Baróti put him in the national team, where he stuck for a decade. He celebrated four league titles with the Angels, won the Central European Cup three times with the Red and Blues, and was named Player of the Year in the 1961-1962 season. At an age when world class players like Albert Flórián, János Göröcs, Ferenc Bene, János Farkas or Lajos Tichy chased the ball in the NB I.

He scored 32 goals as a defender in 279 league matches, played in the 1962 Chile and 1966 England World Cups. His iconic match against the Brazilians was 3:1 in Liverpool, at Goodison Park, he scored our third goal from the penalty spot, then finished the match as a hero with an injured shoulder and bandaged arm.

He appeared twice in the European and World national teams.

As a coach, he led Vasas to the bronze medal in the championship, we have already mentioned his career as national team captain, he also managed the Turkish team Fenerbahce. He took the national team to the 1982 World Cup in Spain, and it was a hair’s breadth that we didn’t make it out of the group.

Mészöly’s life and his career as a football player and later as a coach were marked by one word: passion. He did everything passionately, and that led to his problems. For example, in 1982, when Péter Szász shot a much-talked-about documentary about him, which chronicled the story of our passage to the World Cup in Spain, accompanied by the tirades of the national team captain Mészöly from the bench. Later, he was criticized for his outspokenness many times, but let the coach throw the first stone at him, whose sentences uttered in the heat of the match would be entered into the Beautiful Magyar Beszéd competition.

No one disputed Mészöly’s class, in the 2010 poll of the FourFourTwo football magazine, he proved to be the 22nd best Hungarian footballer of all time, behind him were giants such as his best friend János Farkas, Lajos Tichy, László Fazekas, Zoltán Varga or Alfréd Schaffer. However, the Hungarian land did not have a better centre-back, or even a full-back, than him.

He was probably at the peak of his form in 1967, when the Angels’ team finished in first place in the Hexagonal tournament in Chile, even though Pelé was also among the opponents, Vasas played 2:2 with Santos. Mészöly would have been signed by Real Madrid, Internazionale, and even Santos, but this would only have been possible if Szőke Szikla defected.

The 1969 World Cup qualifier against Czechoslovakia in Marseille was his farewell to the crested jersey, after the 4:1 defeat, he uttered the iconic sentence: “Our time is up.”

He was only 28 years old. After Marseille, he appeared in the national team five more times, his last, sixty-first match on April 4, 1971 in the Prater Stadium in Vienna was a 2-0 defeat against Austria.

In 2011, he received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic, and in the same year he was awarded the Pro Urbe award. In 2018, he became an honorary citizen of Budapest and received the MLSZ Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mészöly has been ill in recent years and has been hospitalized more and more often, it was sad to see how life was slowly leaving Szőke Szikla, who was fearless and unbreakable on the football field.

On November 2, he was taken to János Hospital in critical condition, where he later contracted the coronavirus. Encouraging news about his condition later arrived, he gained strength, but his body gave up the fight on November 21.

(Cover photo: Kálmán Mészöly, 61-time national team captain, at the presentation of his book A Szőke Szikla’s autobiography in Budapest on December 9, 2014. Photo: Tibor Illyés / MTI)