Classic hostelry celebrates the anniversary of a classic game in football history
A bar named after a scoreline – in fact, arguably the most notable one in football history – the 6:3 in Budapest always celebrates the anniversary of the game in question. Also referred to as The Match of the Century, England 3 Hungary 6 took place at Wembley Stadium on November 25, 1953.
Coming around like Christmas, every year the 6:3 bar close to the Danube marks the occasion by showing archive footage from that historic, foggy afternoon. Current owners, a triumvirate of two Anglos and an American intent on keeping the same authentic retro ambience, have recently laid on special events associated with this seismic shift in football’s tectonics.
In 2019, notable author Jonathan Wilson was the guest for a panel discussion and presentation of his book about Hungarian football, The Names Heard Long Ago. This Friday, again on November 25, two local figures with strong connections to Honvéd, the club most linked to this international fixture nearly 70 years ago, will be appearing.
With the stated mission of ‘Commemorating the Great Game and Celebrating the Players from Honvéd, Tibor Koncsik of KLTE, which runs the club museum, and István Gazsó of an independent supporters’ blog, will be discussing the wider aspects of the match. English-language translation will be provided, along with traditional pub food courtesy of Bob’s Kitchen Budapest.
The talk starts at 7pm and should wind up by 8pm, when action from Qatar takes over, USA v England.
The location for the event, nor the name of the bar, are in any way coincidence. It was once owned by forward Nándor Hidegkuti, who scored three goals that day in 1953, the first 45 seconds after kick-off.
The third goal is the most celebrated: the Puskás dragback. His later lifelong friend, England captain Billy Wright, was famously described as ‘running to the wrong fire’ while the Kispest urchin made the ball disappear with a lightning-quick sleight of left foot. Puskás had first created the chance by switching flanks with Zoltán Czibor. England didn’t know whom to mark.
On the original Hungarian radio commentary to be played in the bar, György Szepesi laughs as Puskás kisses an England player on the cheek when making his way back to the centre-circle, immortality achieved in one swift moment.
Part of a growing collection, the photos around the 6:3 bar tell the rest of the story. Hungarians running away laughing as Alf Ramsey yet again fishes the ball out of the net. Magyars in cherry-red shirts, arm aloft in celebration. Reserve keeper Sándor Gellér and Puskás, squat and stocky, at least a head shorter, embrace.
A game swathed in mist, myth and mystery, this friendly fixture had no trophies at stake nor qualification for the World Cup the following summer. Its meaning and consequences, however, were fundamental. Widely if not entirely correctly considered the home of football, England had been sat on its laurels since the earliest days of the game.
Then the other side of the Iron Curtain, deep in the darkest days of hard-core Communism, Hungary had benefitted from the coaching nous of Englishman Jimmy Hogan, who had learned much of it for Scottish players at top English clubs.
Roughly speaking, though again this is nuanced, Scotland invented football because Scotland invented passing. The difference between soccer and sundry inferior codes can be summed up in three words: The Forward Pass. Hogan knew this and between the wars, he imparted his wisdom around Central Europe, specifically but not exclusively at MTK Budapest, alma mater of Nándor Hidegkuti.
There are many more layers of legend and intrigue surrounding the game. So great was the interest in Budapest, a crowded balcony was said to have collapsed during Szépesi’s heart-in-mouth radio commentary, while half a century later, a lonely old man was found long dead in his flat in a grey part of London. An emigré Hungarian, he had been discovered by neighbours who knew little about him. In his pocket was a match ticket for the 6:3 game he would have carried with him everywhere.
Another aspect is, of course, Honvéd, the club team whose players formed the bulk of the Hungarian XI, most notably Ferenc Puskás and half-back József Bozsik who grew up in the streets of Kispest close to the local stadium. When Communism restructured post-war sport, their club represented the Army (‘Honvéd’) and could recruit Hungary’s best players to join the two long-standing members.
All will be discussed in illuminating detail by Tibor Koncsik and István Gazsó, while the 6:3 itself is worth a visit any time. Take frequent tram 2, 4 or 6 to Boráros tér and head over to Lónyay utca – look out for the football-shaped 6:3 sign at No.62 on the right-hand side.