Monday, June 13, 2016

Hungarian clown prince Kiraly set to make Euro history

Hungarian clown prince Kiraly set to make Euro history
BORDEAUX — Hungary’s Gabor Kiraly, one of the great goalkeeping eccentrics, is poised to become the oldest player to appear at a European Championship in tonight’s opening Group F fixture against Austria.

Aged 40 years and two months, he will overtake German Lothar Matthaeus’ record, set at Euro 2000.
Playing against Austria, his country’s longstanding rivals will revive happy memories for Kiraly. For it was 18 years ago that he made his international debut against the Austrians and saved a penalty from Toni Polster after just four minutes.
Despite a three-year gap between 2006-09, he has slowly added to his tally of international appearances, becoming the most capped Hungarian with 103.
The balding Kiraly is universally recognised by his trademark jogging bottoms, first worn to protect his knees from rough surfaces. Forced one day to change from black ones to grey, he has kept the colour ever since as one of numerous superstitions.
Kiraly, who has played for three German clubs and five in England, told the Guardian: “Some of my clubs had to ask their manufacturer to make the grey bottoms for me because they did not have it in their collection.” In fact, he has even launched his own line of the attire, and has a tip for those who want to emulate him. “The most important thing is that they should be loose, preferably one size bigger to facilitate movement,” he said.
The track pants are not Kiraly’s only lucky piece of clothing. He also wears a black T-shirt with a tiger on it under his shirt, and a black basketball jersey with his lucky number, 13.
The Hungarian shot-stopper’s superstitions do not end there. He will ensure that he is always the first off the team bus and has to put on his left shin-pad first. And since 2000, he has listened to Bon Jovi’s hit, It’s My Life, before every game.
Born on April Fools’ Day in 1976, Kiraly’s decision to become a footballer was not much of a surprise given his father was a striker for the local team, Haladas.
Like his dad, he played for Haladas from 1993 to 1997. Then, from 1997 to 2015, he went on to play for German sides Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen and 1860 Munich, and Crystal Palace, West Ham, Aston Villa, Burnley and Fulham in the English league before coming full circle and returning to Haladas.
Having finished only third in their qualifying group behind Northern Ireland and Romania, Hungary are one of the countries to have benefited from UEFA’s expansion of the finals to 24 teams, enabling them to reach their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup. They qualified after beating Norway 3-1 on aggregate in the play-offs, and Kiraly was named the outstanding performer of the play-offs for his heroics.
In contrast to Hungary, Austria surprised observers by strolling through their group. Nine wins and a draw even propelled them into the top 10 of Fifa’s world rankings for June, although they benefited from playing some modest opposition.
Narrow home wins against Malta and Albania and home defeats by Turkey and the Netherlands since qualifying may have dented some of the initial optimism, but Swiss coach Marcel Koller is expected to persevere with his high-tempo pressing game.
They will use the versatile Bayern Munich defender David Alaba as a midfielder with licence to go forward in support of Marc Janko, the lanky striker who scored five goals in qualifying. AGENCIES

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