The day one of the world’s greatest ever footballers played at a non-league ground in Liverpool is to be commemorated at a railway station built on the site.
Ferenc Puskas was an international superstar, having bagged 156 goals in 180 appearances for Real Madrid, when he amazed organisers by agreeing to play in a community centre fundraiser at South Liverpool FC.
Some 10,000 fans packed the Holly Park stadium on 8 May, 1967, eager to see the Hungarian legend lead out a side packed with big names against an “International All Stars” side captained by Liverpool legend Billy Liddell.
Puskas - known as the Galloping Major following his army service - did not disappoint, scoring a hat-trick. The event raised more than £1,100 for Bankfield House, which organised programmes such as summer activity clubs for children.
Four decades later, Holly Park was demolished to make way for Liverpool South Parkway station. But a permanent reminder of the day it hosted one of the world’s finest footballers thanks to a movement led by the former Hungarian Consul in Liverpool, Dr Andrew Zsigmond.
“A few of us of Hungarian origin thought it should be commemorated because it was one of the last games Puskas played,” said Dr Zsigmond.
“It was a great event because nobody really expected him to accept the invitation. But it was all forgotten once the South Liverpool football ground was levelled.”
When Dr Zsigmond contacted Merseyrail about commemorating the event, the team were happy to help rekindle the memories.
Andy Heath, Managing Director at Merseyrail, said: “This is such a wonderful story and as soon as the Hungarian community told us about their plan to install a plaque, we were eager to help make it happen.
“We know how passionate the local community is about football and hope the plaque serves as a lasting reminder of a special day for those passing through the station.”
Dr Zsigmond, who arrived in Britain as a refugee in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, remembers the game vividly.
“The crowd was enormous,” he said. “The ground was absolutely full to bursting and they had to close the gates. The support was for both sides. They cheered whoever was attacking and were rewarded with eight goals.
“I can still see Puskas’ banana-shot from 35 yards.”
A host of big names turned out to play the match, including goalkeeper Bert Trautmann – famous for playing on with a broken neck to help Manchester City win the 1956 FA Cup - Malcolm Allison, Jimmy McIlroy and Dave Hickson, who played for Everton, Liverpool and Tranmere Rovers.
Also on the pitch was another British all-time great, the Welsh former Juventus star John Charles.
“It would be like having Ronaldo and Messi on the pitch today,” said Dr Zsigmond.
The plaque will be unveiled on the concourse at Liverpool South Parkway station on Tuesday 27th November at 11.00hrs.