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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 December 2006, 22:01 GMT
Hungary salutes footballer Puskas
The state mourning ceremony at the Puskas stadium in Budapest
Hungary observed a national day of mourning on Saturday
A funeral mass has been held in Budapest for Hungary's legendary footballer Ferenc Puskas who died last month, aged 79, after a long illness.

The mass - in the capital's St Stephen's Basilica - ended a day of national mourning in the country.

Earlier, thousands attended a memorial service at the national stadium.

Puskas captained Hungary's famed Magical Magyars national team in the 1950s and was a prolific goalscorer. He also played for Spain's Real Madrid.

From now on, there is one fewer star on earth, but one more star shines in the heavens
Jeno Buzanszky
Puskas' team-mate

Puskas moved to Spain after Hungary's failed 1956 revolt against the Soviet rule.

He became a major goal-scorer for Real Madrid in the 1960s and returned to Hungary in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

'Sea of candles'

Several thousand mourners gathered and lit candles outside St Stephen's Basilica where a Roman Catholic Mass was held for Puskas and where the legendary player was buried.

Ferenc Puskas' coffin in
Puskas died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease

Earlier on Saturday, thousands of people - including Hungarian leaders and famous footballers - gathered for the memorial service at the national stadium, renamed after Puskas.

The coffin of Puskas - draped in Hungary's red, white and green flag - was placed on a specially-erected black pyramid in the centre of the emerald-green pitch.

Inside the stadium the stands were a sea of candles, says the BBC's Nick Thorpe at the ceremony.

In a ring around the pitch, footballers and sportsmen and women from all over Hungary stood to attention with the names of their teams.

Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon and former Germany's football great Franz Beckenbauer were among those who came to pay their last respects Puskas.

"He was a true friend and sportsperson, on the pitch as well as off," Jeno Buzanszky, one of the last two surviving members of the famous Hungarian national team in the 1950s.

"From now on, there is one fewer star on earth, but one more star shines in the heavens," he said.

Entertaining people

After the memorial, Puskas' casket was placed on a horse-drawn carriage and taken to Heroes' Square for a brief military ceremony before the funeral service at St Stephen's Basilica.

Puskas practising with other members of the Hungarian team
Puskas was a terrific goal-scorer with a fierce left foot

Puskas has been described as "the best-known Hungarian of the 20th century" by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.

Our correspondent says the Hungarian team Puskas led ignited a global revolution in the way football was played.

He says the short, stocky Puskas epitomised a new emphasis on individual skills and goal-scoring.

Gyula Grosics, a former goalkeeper and one of two surviving members of the Magical Magyars team, told the Associated Press news agency earlier this week: "When we played, we were interested not just in the result but also in entertaining the people."

Thousands gather for Puskas memorial

Hungary legend Puskas dies at 79
17 Nov 06 |  Football
In pictures: Hungary buries Puskas
10 Dec 06 |  In Pictures
Obituary: Ferenc Puskas
17 Nov 06 |  Football
How good was Puskas?
17 Nov 06 |  Football
Hungary's football masterclass
21 Nov 03 |  Football Focus
Stadium renamed after Puskas
02 Apr 02 |  Football


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