Secret Police Informants and Soccer

Discussion in 'The Beautiful Game' started by P. J. Szule, Oct 24, 2004.

  1. P. J. Szule

    P. J. Szule New Member

    Jul 22, 2001
    New York
    Yesterday, October 23rd marked the 48th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet puppet regime as well as the 15th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Hungary ending the forty year socialist era and the occupation by Russia, in 1989. While Hungary since then has joined NATO and the European Union and experienced huge foreign investments, its politics, both on the national parliamentary as well as on the personal, visceral level, is still saturated if not dominated by Hungary’s past. Just a few days ago Hungarian papers broke a story about prominent 1960s defender Dezso Novak, both of Ferencvaros and of Hungarian select team accomplishments, that in the 1960s he was a secret police informant on his teammates.

    Shock, shock, Ferencvaros was the anti-establishment, opposition team in the hearths of the average Magyar fan. The club’s historic popularity rose to mythic heights in the 50s and 60s as it symbolized subtle protest and determination against Honved, Ujpest and Vasas, clubs appropriated and promoted by the Army, the police apparat and the labor unions, respectively. Most fans simply took it as an article of faith that Fradi team members are not only superb players but are anti-communists and oppose the regime. The story now is about mostly older men who were once superb, internationally recognized and, in Hungary, revered players, yet it is also about the destructive, dehumanizing nature of totalitarian political oppression. This week Novak confessed all in light of the revelations and apologized predicating that he is convinced his activities did not cause anyone any harm.

    In the early 1960s, Ferencvaros, Hungary’s most popular and one of its historic clubs, had a terrific team. Still in the era of five forwards, it had an excellent defense, leadership by mature older players and superb attackers finest among them center-forward Florian Albert (1968 European Footballer of the Year) and the enigmatic prodigy Zoltan Varga. Several Fradi players were national team members (in those days Hungary would play a West Germany, Italy or Yugoslavia on level and win more often than not). Some played for the Olympic teams and Ferencvaros itself traveled often to Western Europe for European cup games and on off-season tours of Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. In the summer of 1964 Ferencvaros was in New York playing in Bill Cox’s International Soccer League tournament at Randall’s Island. Travel to the west however was a multifaceted reward, seductive and an enormous privilege for a citizen on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. At the same time, there was the challenge of prudent behavior and the lure of petty “business deals” with smuggling watches, jeans, hosiery, trench coats and whiskey.

    Cruelly and cleverly, the socialist regime knew full well that the “travel privileged” routinely augmented its income with smuggling and, to assert its overriding control and to gather information on every level of society, it periodically compromised, then recruited individuals to inform on an entire club. Novak, a tough yet skilled left back with a cannon-like free kick was picked out by agents when returning in 1967 from an Easter Tournament game in Vienna with a large quantity of watches. After a five hour interrogation and threats of prison time and an end to his soccer career, Hungarian III / III (internal intelligence) had a new agent, code-named Nemere.

    Archival documents reveal that on the tenth anniversary of Nemere’s service, III / III’s inspector summarized that “the agent continually informed us on the club’s tours to the West, on behavior and attitudes of team members and coaching staff as well as their customs and currency violations”. Novak, a fan favorite, a hustling, all-hearth, die-for-the-club type player informed on three main areas: game fixing (endemic then in Hungary and throughout the socialist block), overall observation of star player Albert, and reports on trips to the West. Novak, once he hit his stride, requested various assistance from III / III such as financial settlement of his debts and assistance on being selected to and established on the national team. Naturally, old teammates are upset and angry. Some, true to Ferencvaros’ opposition spirit have served jail time for their stance.

    Jeno Dalnoki, embodiment of this Ferencvaros bluntly asked that Novak be cursed. Others then “just played the game” and tried to live dignified, as-free-as-possible lives. Gyula Rakosi, the indefatigable engine of that Ferencvaros said that he will wear funeral black for days to come, an old defender friend of his has just died. Interestingly and now painfully, these old players still get together every Sunday for an "old boy’s" game. Florian Albert said elegantly - as when he was the world’s best center forward - and with historic perspective that he won’t be able to make this Sunday’s game not because Dezso Novak will be there but because he has a play date with his visiting grandchildren.

    Dezso Novak won four Hungarian Championships with Ferencvaros and played his customary full back role on June 23rd, 1965 when Ferenvaros beat Juventus at Turin to win the Fair Cities Cup (now UEFA Cup), Hungary’s only post-war European trophy. Certainly without equal in Olympic history he also played in three Olympics for Hungary taking home a bronze medal from Rome 1960 followed by two championship gold: first in Tokyo in 1964 and in Mexico City in 1968.

    Gratefully, the Hungary of police agents, informants, travel restrictions and the entire wretched state-party, Soviet mimicking socialist era is gone. Yet who are the informants now on the Cuban, Iranian, North Korean, Vietnamese or Chinese teams ? And when will we read about them in the archives ?
  2. topcow

    topcow New Member

    Nov 23, 2000
    New York

    Informants of what and for who? I believe in most countries prestige of soccer has risen above national politics, and soccer players above politicians. Of course there are exceptions, I wouldn't be surprised if Cobi Jones turns out to be a mole.
  3. dor02

    dor02 Member

    Aug 9, 2004
    UC Sampdoria
    Nat'l Team:
    The problem with Eastern Europe was that they were too corrupt. Look at stories of the East German league in the 1980s. Any country that's not democratic or capitalist always has something up their backside.
  4. sidefootsitter

    sidefootsitter Member+

    Oct 14, 2004
    I'd like to know how many international fixtures were ... uh, fixed.

    USSR-Poland of 1982 that took Poland to the semis against Italy was as fixed as any.

    Anyone knows of others?

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