This Friday is the 62nd anniversary of Ladislao Kubala’s first game in a Blaugrana strip. The Hungarian’s first match for Barça was a friendly against Osasuna played on October 12 of 1950 in FC Barcelona’s Les Corts stadium. FC Barcelona won the game 4 to 0
One of the best players to ever play the sport and hero to Barça fans in the 1950s, Ladislao Kubala was born in Budapest, Hungary, on June 10 in 1927. In 1948 he fled his home country and settled in Rome, Italy. He signed for the Italian team Pro Patria, but he only featured in a couple of non-official matches in the 1948/49 season. Unfortunately, a FIFA sanction, requested by the Hungarian Football Federation, banned Kubala from playing any official matches with his Italian club. Given the situation, and with the aid of other refugee players from the Eastern Bloc, Kubala formed his own team, and went on tour throughout Western Europe. When he arrived in Spain, the Technical Secretary for FC Barcelona, Josep Samitier, was thoroughly impressed with Kubala, a player that had it all: extraordinary physical strength, technically talented, excellent vision of the game and a tremendous ability to score goals. ‘Sami’ didn’t rest until he convinced Kubala to sign for FC Barcelona. That was on July 15 in 1950.
Debut against Osasuna
Unfortunately, due to the bureaucratic obstacles imposed by the Hungarian Football Federation, Kubala was only allowed to play for the Blaugrana in friendly matches. On October 12 of 1950 he suited up for the first time and line-up with his Catalan team-mates in Les Corts against the Navarre side Osasuna. An at-capacity Les Corts, 48,000 culés attended the match, was witness to a great Barça performance against Osasuna (4-0), including a goal from Kubala. The Hungarian, who was in the process of getting back into the rhythm of competitive play after months of inactivity and was still adjusting to his new team-mates, was able to show only flashes of his footballing brilliance against Osasuna. On that day, Kubala lined-up with Velasco, Torra, Corta, Pedrín, Brugués, Abella, Cánovas, Escudero, Aloy and Nicolau. Escudero (min. 25 and 78), Kubala (min. 32), Aloy (min. 64) were the goal-scorers.
After waiting for months, Kubala was given the green light to play official matches with his club. He made his official debut for the team in April, 1951, which kick started a golden era for FC Barcelona. Now known as the Barça of the Five Cups (1951-53), Kubala had no rivals. He was part of the 1952 world-famous attack made up of Basora, César, Moreno and Manchón. After a relatively quiet period in terms of silverware (1953-57), Kubala, under the guidance of manager Helenio Herrera, got the team back to its title-winning ways. He retired in 1961 after playing 345 games and scoring 271 goals for Barça, with an honours list topped by four La Liga titles, one Copa Latina, two Fairs Cups, five Spanish Cups and one Copa Eva Duarte. He returned to FC Barcelona after he hung up his boots to manage the team from 1961 through 1963 and again in 1980, but without too much success.
An immortal memory
Ladislao Kubala passed away in Barcelona on May 17 in 2002. As tribute, a statue created by Montserrat García Rius was raised on the Camp Nou’s esplanade in honour of the Hungarian. The project was funded by the Barça Veterans Association. Kubala’s shirt and boots from his last game as a Blaugrana, August 30 of 1961, are on display at the FC Barcelona Museum. And in May of this year, the Museum opened an exhibition dedicated exclusively to the player and his achievements as a FC Barcelona player.