The story of the vibrant and revolutionary soccer culture in Hungary that, on the eve of World War II, redefined the modern game and launched a new era.
Before Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona, modern soccer was shaped by legends like Gusztáv Sebes, Béla Guttman, Márton Bukovi, Egri Ebstein, and Imre Herschel. In the 1920s and 1930s, they gathered with fellow players and coaches in the coffeehouses of Vienna and Budapest and invented soccer as we know it today. By the 1940s their culture was gone and these men and women, many of whom were Jewish, would be dead, interned, or in exile, their contributions to the beautiful game forgotten.
In The Names Heard Long Ago, Jonathan Wilson invites readers into the pre-World War II era, when Hungary first established professional leagues. An unprecedented number of middle-class people in both countries took an interest in the sport. They were largely university educated, and they instinctively applied academic techniques and analysis to the game. They met regularly to talk soccer in the coffeehouses that had flourished toward the end of the Hapsburg Empire, becoming a public salon and a place where men and women of all classes mingled. These vibrant, artistic spaces fostered an innovative approach to the sport that changed it completely.
The Names Heard Long Ago is as much about the individuals who cultivated the way the game is played as it is a tale of a way of life that was wiped out by fascism.