Nikolic and Jakabfi win Player of the Year awards, Kálmán Mészöly afforded lifetime achievement honour
Thursday evening saw the presentation of the most important sporting prizes of 2017 as part of the M4 Sport – The Sportspeople of the Year Awards Gala held at the National Theatre.
The 60th M4 Sport – The Sportspeople of the Year Awards Gala organised by the Hungarian Sports Journalists' Association broke the record for the number of votes cast in individual categories this year with 436 ballot forms submitted.
In the Women's Footballer of the Year category it was VfL Wolfsburg striker Zsanett Jakabfi who took the plaudits thanks to another superb campaign at the highest level of club football, the German league and Cup titles heading her club's way while Jakabfi became the UEFA Women's Champions' League's joint top goalscorer for the 2016/17 season. The Hungary international forward won the award with a dominant 999 points, far ahead of runner-up Henrietta Csiszár and Fanni Vágó in third.
In the men's category, the American MLS league's most prolific goalscorer Nemanja Nikolic (below) was voted Footballer of the Year ahead of RB Leipzig goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi and Honvéd's Italian striker Davide Lanzafame.
The Goal of the Year winner is Ferencváros' Joseph Paintsil for his spectacular finish to a counter-attacking move stretching nearly the length of the pitch against Videoton in Hungary's OTP Bank Liga (the link to the goal).
The final football award of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement honour, this year awarded to one of the greatest Hungarian defenders of all-time, Kálmán Mészöly of Vasas SC. The former national-team player and head coach was accompanied on the stage by his son Géza and and presented with the award by MLSZ Vice President Sándor Berzi.
As both a footballer and a head coach, 76-year-old Kálmán Mészöly featured 61 times for the Hungarian national team. The rock-solid defender was a quarter-finalist in both the 1962 and 1966 FIFA World Cups in Chile and England respectively. Between those two tournaments, he helped Hungary to bronze in the 1964 European Championships in Spain and was twice selected in European XIs in 1964 and 1972.
Mészöly had three periods as national team head coach in 1980–1983, 1990–1991 and 1994–1995 and is the only person in Hungarian football history to have represented the country at FIFA World Cups as a footballer (1962 and 1966) and as the head coach (1982). He was born in Budapest on 16th July 1941 and was already playing the game for the III. Kerületi TTVE team aged 11 before transferring to Vasas SC in 1959 where he stayed until his retirement in 1972, playing 279 matches for the club as a key player. Knicknamed the 'Blonde Rock', Mészöly was one of Hungary's greatest ever central defenders and a was a tremendous header and striker of the ball, talents which helped him score 32 goals, mainly from headers and penalties. With Vasas, he won four Hungarian league titles (1961, 1962, 1965 and 1966), three Central-European Cups (1962, 1965 and 1970) and became Hungarian Footballer of the Year in 1962.
After his retirement as a player in 1972, Mészöly managed second-tier sides Ganz-Mávag SE and Budafoki MTE before qualifying as a football coach in 1974. He worked in Békéscsaba from 1976 until a switch to his spiritual home of Vasas in 1978 where he stayed for two years initially, returning in 1983 for another year-long stint having led the team to a third-place finish in 1980. In 1985, he took over the reins at the Turkish national team and also led Turkish clubs Fenerbahce and Altay Izmir. In 1990, he was once again appointed Vasas head coach and also led the club for a season in 1993-94 having sandwiched in a period coaching al-Ittihád of Saudi Arabia in 1991-92.
As Hungary head coach, Mészöly sat on the national-team bench 61 times, firstly between 1980 and 1983 when, under his guidance, the team forced its way past group rivals of the likes of England and Romania to qualify for the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Following a brief spell in 1990-91, he took over as Hungary head coach for a third time in 1994 but stood down nearly two years later when Hungary failed to qualify for the European Championships in England.
From 1998, Mészöly worked for the Hungarian Professional Footballers' League, latterly as technical director and was a presidential advisor to the Hungarian Football Association until 2007 before returning once more to his spiritual home of Vasas-Híd in 2011 as a consultant. He also took up a consultancy role during the campaign for Hungary to host the 2012 UEFA European Championships.
Kálmán Mészöly was awarded the Hungarian Republic's Order of Merit with Officer's Cross in 2011 and received the Pro Urbe award in the same year. In 2012, Vasas honoured him with a Lifetime Achievement award and in 2016 Mészöly was presented with the Ferenc Csik prize.
On the initiative of the Hungarian Football Federation, István Szabó – a blind footballer for LÁSS SE – has also attended the Gala, presenting the Disabled Sportsman of the Year award for Richárd Osváth.
István Szabó became known as one of the collaborator – alongside some of world football’s biggest stars like Lionel Messi or Paul Pogba – of UEFA #EqualGame campaign, which positively promotes inclusion, diversity and accessibility in football throughout Europe. The main message of the social media campaign – which has the full support of the Hungarian Football – comprises of a short film which was shown at the Gala, as well.
The M4 Sport – Sportspeople of the Year Gala:
♦ Disabled Sportswoman of the Year: Zsuzsanna Krajnyák
♦ Disabled Sportsman of the Year: Richárd Osváth
♦ Disabled Sports Team of the Year: Women's wheelchair fencing national team (surnames first - Krajnyák Zsuzsanna, Dani Gyöngyi, Hajmási Éva, Veres Amarilla, Fóris Erika)
♦ The Coach of the Year for a Disabled Sportsperson: Sándor Beliczay
♦ Hungarian Goal of the Year (in football, as decided by public vote): Joseph Paintsil (Ferencváros, against Videoton FC)
♦ Women's Footballer of the Year: Zsanett Jakabfi
♦ Men's Footballer of the Year: Nemanja Nikolic
♦ Team of the Year in traditional team sports: a Győri Audi ETO handball team
♦ Team of the Year in traditionally individual sports: Tennis Davis Cup national team (surnames first - Balázs Attila, Fucsovics Márton, Piros Zsombor, Borsos Gábor, Gödry Levente)
♦ Coach of the Year: Shane Tusup
♦ The Sportswoman of the Year: Katinka Hosszú
♦ The Sportsman of the Year: Balázs Baji
♦ The MLSZ Lifetime Achievement Award: Kálmán Mészöly
♦ The MSÚSZ and MOB Lifetime Achievement Award: András Balczó