20/07/79 - 26/01/04
An EGM at Benfica Friday decided that the No. 29 shirt worn by Miklós Feher during his time at the club will be withdrawn forever, so that no one at the club will ever again wear that number.
Benfica have announced that there will be a bronze bust of Miklós Feher at the New Luz. The exact location of the tribute is not yet known.
The Public Prosecutor has said that Miklós Fehér died from cardiac arrhythmia, brought on by hypertrophic cardiomiopathy, and therefore died from "natural causes".
Benfica said a final farewell to Miklós Fehér Tuesday at their Superliga game at home to Académica of Coimbra (in their coincidentally appropriate black kit). A very open and fair game had no yellow cards (the teams contributed with practically total fair play - or as a group of fans spelled out by holding up letters FEHÉR PLAY - and normally card-happy ref Martins dos Santos kept them in his pocket for the occasion).
It was preceded by some touching, if not moving gestures. Os Diabos Vermelhos ('The Red Devils') donned red and white bibs to form the number 29 (made sacred by the club, in that it will never again be worn by a Benfica player) in one corner of the ground. Just before kick-off, the giant screens installed for Euro 2004 showed some images of Fehér as a Benfica player, to the sounds of Nessun Dorma, rendered by Luciano Pavarotti.
Then the players came out, all wearing T-shirts with Fehér's photo on the front and his number and name on the back. They took them off ... and Benfica's players had only the name of Fehér on their shirts above their numbers. Académica's Kaká had asked for permission from the Liga (granted) to change the number of his shirt from 29 to 99 for the match. Around the centre circle were laid the shirts of all the Superliga clubs, and on it Fehér's Benfica shirt and the Hungarian flag. The minute of silence before kick-off, with the spectators in the stands holding up black cards, was absolutely crystalline.
During the game, there seemed to be a conscious effort to honour Fehér's memory with fair play (unlike, it must be said, other games this weekend). Benfica's first goal , Zahovic with a header, was followed by a huddle with the Benfica plyers pointing to the heavens.
One of the highlights of the game was when the Académica fans, late arrivals, held up a banner in the form of a football shirt - Fehér's - 56,000 applauded.
Before Sporting Braga's home game with Moreirense Friday, the club showed on the giant video screens all the 14 goals that Fehér scored for them in the 2000/2001 season when he was on loan from FC Porto. "May God have you in a golden place, and if you meet Pedro Lavoura, give him a hug from us," said executive director ArturMonteiro. (Lavoura died in similar circumstances in 1973).
All the SuperLiga games this weekend will be preceded by a minute's silence in memory of the Hungarian. There have been silences thoroughout the week before clubs' training sessions, before games in other sports (Roller Hockey, etc.) and there was one before Boavista's SuperLiga game against Beira-Mar Monday.
Weekly tabloid O Crime revealed how much Fehér's life was insured for: 250,000 euros. The paper compared the sum with the insurance value of Benfica's Angolan striker Pedro Mantorras: 20 million.
Famous benfiquista, East Timor president Xanana Gusmão sent his condolences to Benfica Wednesday, saying that he hoped the club could go forward from here. Luís Figo too had something to say: "A thing like this makes us realise that the small problems we have are nothing."
Miklos Fehér was laid to rest Wednesday in snowy Gyor, Hungary. Benfica players, coaching staff and directors were present, as well as a representative of the Portuguese Government, Hermínio Loureiro, Minster for Youth and Sports. In total, there were 152 people from Portugal. They returned to Lisbon immediately afterwards in the plane the club had chartered. The Portuguese Prime Minister, Durão Barroso, sent his condolences to his Hungarian counterpart.
Fehér was lying in state in the main entrance to Benfica's Luz Stadium until 23.30 Tuesday evening, and thousands more people filed past the coffin during the day. His mortal remains will arrive in Hungary Wednesday. The whole of the Benfica team and coaching staff will travel to Hungary for the funeral, as will the Secretary of State for Youth and Sport Hermínio Loureiro. Their game against Académica has been postponed until next Tuesday. Sandor Berzi, Secretary General of the Hungarian Football Federation, has called for a full State Funeral for the player.
Benfica coach José Camacho told the Spanish sports daily Marca: "To think that I'd given him [Fehér] instructions moments before, and that later I could do nothing for him ... I wept with anger and a sense of uselessness. To see him lying there on the ground and not be able to do anything, and to see him slipping away ..."
Dieter Hoeness, technical director of German side Hertha Berlin, said Tuesday that Fehér had been on the club's shopping list. German newspaper Bild captioned a photo of the player with: "Here lies Hertha's hope."
Miklós Fehér's mortal remains were transported by hearse from Guimarães to Lisbon Monday (+/- 350 kms). Thousands waited in the rain for the arrival of the coffin at Benfica's Estádio da Luz. His team mates waited in the main reception area of the stadium. The giant stone eagle, which had previously perched above the main gate of the old Luz and now sits subdued indoors, was draped with the scarves of many different clubs, whose fans had passed to pay their last respects. Benfiquistas would later file past the coffin of the player, who in death has become an icon of the club.
Six of Fehér's team-mates carried the coffin into the reception area: Captain Hélder, vice-captain Simão (who had been captain in Sunday's game), Miguel, Argel, Nuno Gomes and Zahovic . Argel and co-centre-back Ricardo Rocha were seen to sob uncontrolledly over the coffin as the team linked hands around it. A damp-eyed Luís Filipe Vieira, president of the club, promised that no one will ever again wear the number 29 shirt, worn by Fehér at the club.
Benfica's Hungarian striker Miklós Fehér suffered a heart attack Sunday just half a minute from the final whistle at Vitória de Guimarães. Benfica were defending a 1-0 lead and Fehér had just received a yellow card for impeding a throw-in when he crumpled to the ground on his back near the touchline. His Benfica team-mates rushed to him and turned him on his side to clear his airways - it looked as if he had swallowed his tongue. Almost immediately, the gravity of the situation became clear - horror was stamped on the faces of Fehér's helpless team-mates, staggering and wandering around near the prone body of Fehér, their hands to their heads or kneeling on the sodden turf, their heads bowed. Several of them wept openly. Benfica's Spanish coach António Camacho raced onto the pitch, despite the attempt to restrain him by the fourth official, and also began weeping as he realised at first hand the cruel truth. Vitória's players and staff tried to console them. The doctors of both clubs worked to revive the player.
Paramedics rushed on with resuscitation equipment, and an ambulance was backed onto the pitch. The jeers of Vitória fans, who had assumed it was a ruse to waste time, quickly turned to applause to complement the chants of "Miklós Fehér, Miklós Fehér" from the large Benfica contingent, in an effort to reanimate the player from a distance. Fehér was transported to the nearby Guimarães hospital. The other players trudged off, stunned and speechless. The remaining half-minute and the score were forgotten. Football naturally took a back seat to the unfolding tragedy.
Later in the evening, the Director of the hospital, Fausto Fernandes, officially announced that Féher had died: "Today at approximately 21.45, the footballer Miklós Fehér, 24, entered our emergency unit with cardio-respiratory failure. We immediately performed all emergency procedures (...) These continued until around approximately 23.10 but without success."
Miklós Fehér, an Hungarian international, just 24, had come on as sub on the hour of Sunday's SuperLiga game. His half-hit shot had been turned in by Fernando Aguiar in added time. In the final minute of the game, Fehér stopped Rogério Matías from taking a throw-in on the halfway line. He smiled ironically as the referee showed him a yellow card, he turned and ... inexplicably, bent forwards, hands on knees, and simply collapsed like a rag doll onto his back.
Criticisms were initially aimed at the difficulty of access of the ambulance in the D. Afonso Henriques stadium in Guimarães, which is one of those that will be used for Euro 2004 - it took around ten minutes for it to enter the pitch through a corner entrance, and then it had to back on. However, other sources claimed that the ambulance came on exactly when it was called for by the doctors handling the situation on the pitch, and that every care possible had been taken by the emergency units.
Fehér had few opportunities to shine at Benfica, and was recently linked with several other Portuguese clubs with a view to being loaned out. The obstacles to a possible move were the player's determination to make a go of it at Portugal's biggest club, his reluctance to take a step down and the fact that first choice for the position Nuno Gomes has recently suffered a serious injury that will keep him out for several weeks, making it important for the club to have an alternative to, or companion for, Sokota up front.
The player was involved in a controversial move from FC Porto two seasons ago: FC Porto claimed a fee for nurturing the player, although he had only played ten times in three seasons at the club, his lack of success down firstly to the Jardel phenomenon, keeping him out of the first team, and then (the final season there confined to the 'B' team) down to a dispute between the club and Fehér's agent José Veiga (recently sacked by Figo and Jardel, among others). This unfortunate spell at FC Porto was interrupted by half a season on loan to Salgueiros, then of the Primeira (14 games, five goals) and one season on loan at Sporting Braga (2000/01), his most successful on Portuguese soil, in which he played 26 times and scored 14. Last season he played 17 times for Benfica and scored four.
Go to: article in British alternative magazine When Saturday Comes