This is an old book revived. First written in 1955 and originally titled PUSKAS ON PUSKAS, CAPTAIN OF HUNGARY comes from a distant, more innocent time. I found some charm in that, but you may not agree with my viewpoint.
There was a time, before Pele burst on the scene, that Ferenc Puskas may just have been the greatest football player in the world. Like Pele, he had a father who was active as a professional first. Like Pele, he made his senior team debut at 16 and his international debut at 17.
To many younger/fans, their image of Puskas is shaped by the film records that survive (I certainly included my self before I read this book). We see a swaggering, almost arrogant figure, strolling across the pitch and firing rockets from great distances with his famous left foot. The Puskas who narrates his life story is very different. A devoted family man and father, he sees his amazing talent as the by-product of his training. The English nicknamed him "The Galloping Major" but here he is a humble, almost innocent figure.
One section that really stood out was his detailed examination of the revolutionary new tactics of the Hungarian National team. He gives you not only the origin of their formations and approach, but shows how these new tactical approaches came into being in the first place. He then compares Hungary formations and approach to others of the era. These explanations are well written and easy to understand.
They say a cat has 9 lives and Puskas had several remarkable stages to his life and career. This book covers only the first, his career in Hungary. His exile and 2 year suspension, his re-emergence in Spain with DiStefano at Real Madrid and for the Spanish World Cup team, and then his many spells as club coaches all around the world before his return to Hungary. None of that is covered here. If you're looking for this kind of comprehensive biography you will not find that in CAPTAIN OF HUNGARY.
The other thing missing is the historical/political context of his life/and career. He was born and lived before World War II and came to prominence after the war when Hungary became part of the Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Puskas held the rank of Major in the Hungarian army, earning him rights and privlages beyond the average Hungarian. Did he feel entitled? Was he embarrased? We don't know.
He does write about the 4 great games of his career (up to 1955), the 1952 Olympics, the 2 landslide wins over England, the 1954 World Cup when Hungary was an overwhelming favorite (and was 2 goals up after 8 minutes) only to loose in the end to West Germany in the greatest World Cup upset of all time (Hungary had beaten West Germany 8-3 in a earlier group match). His 4th match took place after the World Cup when Hungary traveled to Moscow to play the Soviet Union in 1955. Included in all of this are his impressions of (what I think was the greatest International Football match of all time) Hungary vs. Uruguay game in the 1954 World Cup semi-finals. This (to me) is the highlight the book.
Normally I do not seek out Autobiographies, but Ferenc Puskas was such a commanding figure that I took the time to read this old book brought back to life. I enjoyed it. You might too.