László Kubala: Man with no homeland?

Sep 19, 2020

Life Stories

László Kubala

Beginnings

László Kubala Stecz was born in Budapest in 1927. Though Laszlo was Hungarian by birth, his father, Pal, was of Slovak descent and his mother, Anna Stecz had mixed Polish, Slovak and Hungarian origins. László was a talented footballer, though his development was held back by the Second World War. In 1945, he joined Ferencvaros; but then in 1946 he moved to Czechoslovakia to play for Slovan Bratislava. He changed citizenship, played six times for Czechoslovakia and married Anna Daucik, sister of the national team’s coach.

The Wanderer

In 1948, László Kubala returned to Hungary. He played three times for the country of his birth. But Hungary was falling under Communist rule. László escaped in the back of a truck as a political refugee, seeking to refuse drafting. He went to Austria, then to Italy. Kubala was banned for one year by FIFA for breaking his contract in Hungary. In 1949, FC Torino asked him to play for them in a prestige match against Benfica in Portugal. Kubala’s young child was sick, so he did not go. On the return flight 31 people died in the Superga air disaster. In 1951 he joined FC Barcelona. He stayed there for ten years, becoming a Spanish citizen.

Legacy

László/Ladislau Kubala became a football legend in Spain. He played 186 games for Barcelona and 19 times for Spain. In 1955 Kubala appeared as himself in a film, Las Ases Buscan la Paz. From 1961 to 1963 he was manager at FC Barcelona. From 1969 till 1980 he was coach of Spain’s national team. Later he coached teams in Spain, Saudi Arabia and Paraguay.  Ladislau Kubala died in 2002. A statue in his honour was erected at the Camp Nou stadium.

Thinking points

Few footballers get to play for two different countries: László Kubala Stecz played for four: Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Catalonia and Spain. His parents thought of themselves as Slovaks. Kubala’s greatest success was with Barcelona, where he is remembered as a club legend, alongside Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, also players with multiple belongings. Laszlo Kubala’s life story touches on football, politics, nationalism and migration.

Educators can work with young people on these questions:

  1. What is the role of nationality in his life?
  2. What does his story tell us about motivation and effects of migration?

Find out more

Have a look at a snippet of the movie Las Ases Buscan la Paz. You can also read more about his career in an excellent biographical piece on These Football Times. Listen to an in-depth podcast episode of The Barcelona Podcast on the role of Hunarians in the shaping of the club. Watch Kubala in action in 1953 as part of a “Rest of Europe”-team who played England to mark the 90th anniversary of the Football Association on British Pathe. Note how Kubala is called “the Spaniand”.

COVER Image

Kubala, 30 September 1953 (Photo: Anefo / Dutch National Archives)

Kubala, 30 September 1953 (Photo: Anefo / Dutch National Archives).

Life Story

From a mixed central European background to a Barcelona and Spain legend.

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Article Tags:   Cold War  |   diversity  |   migration  |   social history

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