Friday 17 May 2002 14:55 (BCN)
Kubala was born in Budapest on 10 June 1927 to a mixed family of Slovac and Polish origin.
He started his football as a youngster for Ganz, before signing for Ferencvaros in the 1945-46 season. A year later, following the death of his father he and his mother left Hungary for Bratislava in the then Czechoslovakia, where he joined the city team, which was coached by his future father in law and Barca trainer Fernando Daucik.
In 1947 he returned to his homeland and signed for Vasas Budapest, but a year after he fled from the poverty and hardships of postwar Hungary and ended up in a refugee camp in Rome. He turned down a big money move to Torino and instead signed with Pro Pàtria, for whom he played in a number of friendlies in the 1948-49 season. Unfortunately, FIFA, at the instigation of the Hungarian Federation, lengthened the ban on his playing officially and so he got together with a number of other East European refugees to form a team which made various tours of Western Europe.
On one such tour, after playing in Sarria, the then Technical Director of Barcelona, Josep Samitier was so impressed with Kubala that he determined to do everything possible to sign him for the club. On 15 June, he achieved his desire and Kubala joined F.C. Barcelona, although he was unable to make his debut until April 1951, due to a number of legal obstacles, which disappeared once he’d become a nationalized Spanish subject.
His arrival at the club contributed to a wonderful era of success for Barca. Kubala was incredibly strong, had a superb technique, was an expert free kick and penalty taker and a intelligent reader of the game, as well as a born leader on the pitch.
The famous “Team of the Five Cups”, of 1951-53 won everything on offer and if it hadn’t been for the series of injuries he suffered, as well as a serious bout of tuberculosis in 1952, the team would surely have won more titles.
Barca’s frustrated attempts to sign Di Stefano in 1953, meant that the fans wer denied the chance to see the world’s two top stars together. Following a difficult period from 1953-58, Kubala discovered his best form again under the guidance of Helenio Herrera at the end of the decade. On his retirement in 1961, after playing 329 games and scoring 256 goals with the club, Kubala could boast four league titles (51-52, 52-53, 58-59 and 59-60), a Copa Llatina (1952), two Fairs Cups (55-58 and 58-60), five Spanish Cups (50-51, 51-52, 52-53, 56-57 and 58-59) and two Eva Duarte Cups (1952 and 1953). He also won full international honours with four separate countries: Slovakia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and 19 times for Spain.
After retiring, he trained Barca until he was dismissed in 1963, upon which he sensationally joined Di Stefano at Espanyol for the 1963-64 season as a player and as manager. He then began a long career as manager at Elche, Múrcia, Córdoba, Zurich, Toronto City and Toronto Falcons, as well as twice managing Europe select teams.
He was also Spain’s manager from 1969 to 1980, when he again took over the technical staff at Barca, only to again be dismissed in November. Following an exotic adventure in charge Al-Hila of Saudi Arabia, he returned to Spain to manage Malaga in the 1987-88 season. He left Malaga to become President of the Barca ex-players’ section after a brief stint as manager of Paraguay. In 1993 he was given an emotional testimonial, which echoed the 1961 game in which Barca, with Di Stefano and Puskas as guests, beat Stade Reims 4-2 in front of a packed Nou Camp.
Until his death, he occupied the post of Honorary President of the ex-Players Section of Football Club Barcelona.
I`m actually reading a book about Kubala at the moment, so this feels even sader now. But he has had a pretty hard life and been sick for a long time so it wasn`t any suprise that this would happen soon.