Hungary mourns György Szepesi, the Magical Magyars' '12th player'
Legendary sports reporter and former Hungarian Football Federation President György Szepesi passed away on Wednesday morning aged 96 years old.
Szepesi first became familiar with football on the makeshift 'grund' pitches of the Angyalföld district in Budapest before becoming a registered player in the lower leagues aged 16. He soon realised he wasn't as talented as the world-famous Hungarian footballers of the day and concluded that he'd be able to offer more to the sport from the side of the pitch.
This took him in the direction of the media and in 1945 he became a radio commentator, reporting on matches from pitchside. Perhaps the most famous of these was the 'Match of the Century' in 1953 when Hungary became the first country outside the British Isles to defeat England on home soil with a memorable 6-3 victory at Wembley Stadium. It was then that he became known as the 'Golden Team's twelfth player'.
"It was thanks to this that I was able to be on this incredible journey, because if there was a twelfth player, it would surely have been head coach Gusztáv Sebes and everyone who really contributed to the successes. I think this title is a little exaggerated but if they've already given it - and I'm not being disingenuous here - I respectfully give my thanks", Szepesi said in regard to the recognition.
Later, Szepesi was the man responsible for Hungarian Radio's 'Circuit Switch' programme, which became tremendously popular almost instantly, curious listeners being able to enjoy in their millions his voice in Hungarian stadia between 1963 and 2009.
He embodied the style of sports coverage which saw the reporter immerse himself enthusiastically and intensely with the game, the team and the competition, being happy with the successes and victories whilst also accepting the disappointments and defeats.
In addition to football coverage, Szepesi also covered 15 Olympic Games from 1948 onwards, reporting on around 50 Hungarian gold medals including the 1964 Hungarian water polo team when in the final match a whole nation joined him in roaring to one of the players: "Shoot, Dömötör!".
There were 14 football World Cups commentated upon too, a record which is now preserved in the Guinness record books. He is also the reporter active for the longest amount of time ever, the 2005 Hungary v Argentina international friendly taking place almost 60 years to the day of his first fixture, the Hungary v Austria international match on 20th August 1945.
Szepesi also undertook responsibility away from the pitch, serving at the President of the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) from 1979 to 1986, still while Hungary was participating in the last FIFA World Cup for which it qualified, the 1986 tournament in Mexico. Four years prior to that, he was elected to FIFA's Executive Committee while also being a member of the Hungarian Olympic Committee.
Szepesi has been recognised for his exceptional work over the years, notably as the first Hungarian sports journalist to receive the Gerevich award as well as the György Örth Award, the Aranytoll prize, the Zoltán Kodály award for Public Arts in January 2007, the Prima Primissima honour in 2004 and the Hungarian Sports Journalists' Association's Lifetime Merit Award in the same year. Further prestigious honours include the International Olympic Committee's Silver Order of Merit and the Hungarian Republic's Order of the Middle Cross.
Most recently, in January 2016, Szepesi received the Hungarian Football Federation's Lifetime Merit award at the M4 Sport Sportspeople of the Year gala.
Further information on funeral arrangements will be forthcoming following consultations with Szepesi's family.