In Kispest there is field covered in long grass and weeds with two empty rust blotted goalposts at either end. It is this field that about ninety years ago a young Ferenc Puskas called the ‘grund.’ He’d spend all day chasing and kicking a ‘rongylabda’ (rag ball) made out of old stockings and filled with sheep fur or dry grass, until it was dark and you could no longer see.
A couple of decades later Puskás would go on to win multiple Champions League titles and break records with Real Madrid scoring 242 goals in 262 games. To commemorate Puskas’ greatness FIFA named the award for the best goal of the year in his name, and for the first time since its inception the award may be heading back to Puskas’ homeland.
The nominated goal in question was albeit scored in Debrecen which is about a couple of hundred kilometres away from Puskas’ birthplace of Kispest but the scorer Daniel Zsori is a compatriot of Puskas.
Zsori was born outside of Hungary in Nagyvarad of Romania, a city formerly belonging to the Magyars before the Trianon treaty. He moved to Hungary at the fledgling age of 16 to Debrecen and signed for DVSC. Merely two years later he’d make his debut for the club on a cold winter night and score the goal which would later earn him the Puskas Award nomination.
Zsori came on in the 81st minute with Debrecen trailing 1-0. The game was well poised. Ferencvaros were the league leaders. Their line-up was filled with some of the best players playing in Hungary. Compared to green and white side, Zsori’s team were relative minnows threatened by relegation. The fresh faced winger jogged on hoping to change Debrecen’s favours.
The equaliser would come merely two minutes later when Debrecen were awarded a penalty after Ferencvaros goalkeeper Dibusz brought down Adam Bodi. A former Ferencvaros favourite and Debrecen captain Daniel Tozser delivered from the spot to draw the game level. The game looked set to be a tie. The cold winter night was taking a toll. It needed an icebreaker. And an icebreaker it got.
In the 92nd minute a ball was looped to the debutant Zsori just inside the box. Zsori rose to strike it mid-air in an acrobatic overhead kick. The strike was sweet and it thundered into the back of the net past Ferencvaros goalkeeper Denes Dibusz to earn Zsori’s side a famous and unlikely victory.
It was a goal which would have made Ferenc Puskas smile, beaming down from the heavens above. The skill was unexpected. The power of the shot was unstoppable and the strike was impeccable.
Zsori faces competition for the award from Messi’s chip against Real Betis and a well struck free quick from long distance by Quintero against Racing Club. Both Messi and Quintero scored outstanding goals, but none compare to the feat and context of Zsori’s goal.
Zsori scored a last minute winner, against the league champions at merely 18 years of age in his first professional game of football. That feat would have been impressive enough if it were a simple tap in. Alas, a simple tap in Zsori’s goal was not. Zsori’s goal required an incredible amount of confidence and technique. It was a goal which could not have been a fluke. The skill and the ability to pull it off would have required years of practise and hours of polishing on the training ground to get it perfect.
That sort of practise is what Ferenc Puskas was all about. Back when he was the same age as Zsori, he’d place thin wooden sticks on the top corner of the goal post and would spend hours trying to hit the sticks with a football in order to sharpen his finishing.
Zsori’s goal deserves the Puskas Award, not simply because of its Hungarian origin but because of the sheer marvel of the goal. It is the type of goal which makes football fans all around the world fall in love with the game and one which the legendary Hungarian himself would have been proud of. It is what Puskas was all about, he’d bring joy and skill to football to awe fans around the globe. Now it is time for his award to make its way to Puskas’ homeland and for one small glimmer, for the world to associate Puskas’ country with the joy of the game once more.
Written by Bence Bocsák