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Ferenc Puskás Stadium
It was on Ferenc Puskás' 75th birthday that the legendary Népstadion was officially named after the best ever Hungarian footballer.
Puskás received a special gift for his 75th birthday; Since 2nd April 2002 the earlier Népstadion has been called the Puskás Ferenc Stadion. It was clear to everyone that the stadium should be the home of the national football team should be named after the most famous Hungarian person, but even then a significant amount of lobbying was required.
The Society of the Friends of Sportspeople, made up of former world-class competitors and Olympic and world champions wrote a joint letter to the president of the republic, the head of the government and the youth and sport minister suggesting that on Ferenc Puskás' 75th birthday the Népstadion should be named after him.
The government approved the initiative so the stadium which had been opened on 20th August 1953 took the name of the legendary footballer who, when part of the national team, had never suffered a home defeat on its playing surface. Just as Puskás played the main role in many memorable matches, the national arena was also the scene of many legendary contests; Honvéd played in the Népstadion's first football match and beat Spartak Moscow 3-2 but obviously it is Hungary's 7-1 defeat of England in 1954 which is the match which evokes the best memories.
Although the stadium which had taken more than five years to complete had an official capacity of 78,000 spectators, more than 104,000 squeezed into the ground for the classic 1955 Hungary v Austria match. By the time the stadium was renamed the Puskás Ferenc Stadion on 2nd April 2002, it had been modernised with new seats, a covered press tribune and an elegant VIP area located above the players' entrance.
In celebration of the 'Christening' of the stadium, 75 children walked in rows onto the pitch and photographers formed a ring around the centre circle at the time of the referee's whistle for a ceremonial kick-off which was watched live by two special guests visiting from Real Madrid, Alfredo Di Stéfano and Emilio Butragueno. Officially the friendly match against Spain on 21st August was the first national team match organised in the Ferenc Puskás Stadium since its name change and of course the eponym was there as the star guest. What Öcsi bácsi cannot live to see is the modern 60-65,000 capacity arena which is due to be ready by 2016 and will be able to host finals of European club competitions and European Championship tournament matches. Although everyone talks of the building of the new Ferenc Puskás Stadium, the name of the new stadium will be decided by the voters. Given the popularity of the 'Golden Team' captain, the building which is planned will stand between the László Papp Sport Arena and the old Puskás Stadium may also take the name of the footballing genius in the future.