The PUSKÁS-SUZUKI CUP took place last week in Hungary and the Puskás academy sports director Imre Gellei, spoke exclusively to Gaby Kovács to tell us about this youth tournament.
Can you tell us how the PUSKÁS-SUZUKI CUP began and why it was created?
Five years ago, in 2008 we organized the first. One aim was to renew the old Easter tradition of tournaments and the other was to give young players a chance to show their talents in a tournament, honouring the memory of Ferenc Puskás. The competition is almost a mini European championship and Real Madrid coach Jose Antonio Fernandez Lopez said that to them this is the most important tournament of the season for their age group. We try to create the right conditions for the players and it is also a great place for children to come and spend their Spring break.
The current crop of young players we have is encouraging for Hungarian football. How much can be done to convince these players to stay with Hungarian clubs?
We must make a football career in Hungary attractive by using positive examples, for example Roland Szolnoki and Ádám Gyurcsó, who now play for the Hungarian champions Videoton. This example should be used to inspire players that they should feel at home playing in Hungary. As Paulo Sousa, the two times Champions League winner and coach of Videoton said, everyone should try to have an international career, and one or two players from his current crop can succeed in this.
Were the other teams involved in the competition surprised at how good youth football in Hungary was?
They were very impressed with the organisation of the tournament and the quality of the players and left previous tournaments with a very positive experience of Hungary. From the previous four competitions, Hungarian teams have won three with Real Madrid winning the other, so the Spanish, Greek and other foreign teams know that winning here will be no easy job. The seriousness of the tournament is also perfectly indicated by the fact that the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban is honoured each year to open the tournament officially.
As UEFA made a terrible mistake which cost our under 17’s a place in the European championship, is this tournament important to give the players a confidence boost again?
My personal opinion is that there are times when morality should overcome the rigid rules, and we should be included in the championships in Slovenia, because we are completely innocent in the matter. We should of at least had the chance to of played Belgium on a neutral ground to decide who goes through. In two years’ time we host the under 17 European championship in Hungary, so we will not be left behind in this age group at least. The PUSKAS-SUZUKI CUP is an important aid to their development.
Who are the current crop of academy players that we should look out for?
We have, in six age groups, 22 national team players, who we believe have the talent to become a top professional player. We have seven academy players currently playing in the second division now, and there are two at current champions Videoton.
What is the future of the competition? Do you think it will expand to have teams from England, Germany etc?
At the tournament we have a very important principle that, as much as possible, the way of life of Ferenc Puskás must be passed on to the teams and players, therefore, permanent participants of the tournament will be Budapest Honvéd and Real Madrid, because these teams Puskás played for and also Panathinaikos, where he managed. We plan to look into the possibility of expanding the eight team tournament, and to bring in English, German, Dutch and Japanese teams.
Honvéd won this year’s tournament for the 3rd time in 5 years, beating Videoton 7-0 in the final.
Many thanks to Zalán Bodnár and György Szöllősi from the Ferenc Puskás academy.