Returning to Selhurst Park as a Premium Matchday host for Palace’s upcoming games with Southampton and Newcastle, Gabor Kiraly will arrive as a fan favourite club Celebrity.
In the summer before Palace took on Hertha Berlin in a pre-season friendly, the official Palace programme caught up with Kiraly to go over his fond time in south London.
Nope. Not one mention of a specific item of clothing in this interview. And although Gábor Király did not only say it, we’d like to think our former goalkeeper came off from our conversation with him grateful that we did mention that* choice of garment.
Of course, there’s much more to anyone than the clothes they wear, and after talking with Király, you leave knowing that this a guy who treated his footballing career with the utmost esteem, a player who was pleased to pull on the top of whomever he was representing, watching it as his duty to perform well.
Last summer’s match against Hertha Berlin saw the club that gave Király his first experience beyond Hungary face up with the club that he regularly describes a household; his loved ones, in reality.
The announcement of the Hertha Berlin friendly attracted excitement among the Palace faithful. It isn’t every day that you get to watch a few of Germany’s best club sides.
On the opposite side of their marketing boards, playing Die Alte Dame was special for Király too: “My initial foreign country was Germany later moving from Szombathelyi Haladás into the amazing city of Berlin,” he said. “My hometown was just 80,000 individuals, so moving into a location like that has been a huge step.
“I have to find out everything: the language, the culture, the style, the people and the reaction to me. But I am the type of person who wants also to develop and to learn.
“I’m moving with my wife, just her and I, with our friends remaining in Hungary. On the other hand, the team helped us as did my mates, which was so significant to us and I am thankful for that.”
How lucky he’s been to have had opportunities and the experiences that his career threw up through the meeting, remarks. It is a real appreciation, however, instead of a platitude.
This is a guy who desired to absorb everything he could from every club, every town and every fan he came across.
“I speak fluent German and enjoy visits to meet with friends in Germany, and I am thankful for what soccer has given me with regard to opening distinct cultures to me.
“It has been important for my own children, and they talk three languages — German, English and Hungarian — all perfectly, and I am proud to have given my kids that opportunity to learn and experience these different countries.
“I had a wonderful time in Berlin, and although I was there seven years, it went really fast; I had been playing in the Bundesliga, called up into the side and after that additionally playing Champions League football. So many terrific opportunities early on in my career at this excellent club, with great lovers and background; I’m grateful for this.”
After seven years together with the Old Lady, playing in the Champions League and becoming Hungary’s No.1 between the sticks, Király caught the attention of the south London scouts with a blank sheet against Germany whilst on international duty. That performance confirmed into the Eagles that they needed to signal the 6’3″ shot-stopper between the sticks.
“Hungary played Germany in a friendly in 2004 and Palace had scouts there to the match. We beat them 2-0, together with Sándor Torghelle getting both goals, and that’s when Palace began discussions for me with Hertha.
“I was so happy to join this club, because for me personally Crystal Palace is one big family. This enabled me to fall in love with the club quickly, everybody assisted my integration and everyone was friendly and gave me a massive sense of pride pulling that shirt. I always felt like I could never play bad for this club and its people; I have a responsibility to them.
“Everything was so professional when I came; I adored the training floor and the positioning of this being in a quiet place. I lived during my time with the club in Bromley since it was a area in which I could live to me as a 39, and that I enjoyed being there.
“Playing my first season in the Premier League never uttered to me, I just wanted to play with this club. Thus, when we were relegated, it crossed my mind to leave; I would play with this club at any league.”
Famously, Király came as Julián Speroni during the Exact Same summer. But that narrative goes with Gábor showing that while the Argentine awaited their medicals, they sat alongside one another without knowing the other for a keeper. Ironic for 2 mates who would go on to be lifelong friends.
Footballing’legislation’ would suggest that two goalkeepers of a similar age in the peak of their careers, joining at the same time and wanting to make an impact at their new club, would have a dislike of one another. However, that could not be farther from the truth — in actuality, Király received a text on the afternoon of the interview with the former Hungarian international.
“Julián is a very good guy. To work with him was an honor because he was always very professional, and he had been a fantastic servant to the club; we had a terrific time together”
Defenders will tell you they’re only as good as the goalkeeper supporting themand large framework and the vocal presence of Király will settle any defence. Nonetheless, it is a two-way street with Gábor filled with praise for those defenders who protected his penalty area during his three decades.
Despite inquiring if he could pick them all, we pushed Gábor to select his favoured back four in front of him from his time at south London, and having an endearing reluctance to, Király finally opted for Danny Butterfield and Danny Granville as the full-backs with Tony Popovic being partnered in the core of defence with Mark Hudson.
Király was eager to acknowledge the effect of Fitz Hall and Gonzalo Sorondo during his bout with Palace at the center of the back four.
The 90 minutes against Hertha Berlin at August represented something greater than the romanticism of 2 of his former clubs rival: it was affirmation to him that he is currently a retired footballer.
Speaking pre-match, Kiraly explained:”The afternoon of this friendly will be a moment that I’m marking as my first step following retirement, because I have only just left the game this summer. I would like to enjoy this game, from the racks, without having to be focused like I was as a player and just watch my two clubs, out of two huge, lovely chapters in my own life.
“I really wish to thank both clubs, because in complete I was with for 10 years joined, and I learnt a lot from my experiences.”
He may be, but guarantees Kiraly’s career finishes as a remarkable feat of endurance and passion for a match he played on his own terms.
The coming together of two of his clubs saw not only the look on with nostalgic recollections about fond memories and experiences with either side, but in addition, the Eagles compete with high global competition: a mark of just how far they have come since the former keeper final guarded their goal, fans, and pride.
As his south London club limbered up in their seventh successive season to burst; something near unthinkable in his period, Kiraly viewed on in summer.
But thanks to the efforts of Kiraly, the gamers who followed the boys, in his mold from SE25 and his peers do this. And Gabor can watch on with pride.