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International Eagles: What Happened When Kiraly Didn't Wear His Grey Joggers?

13 July 2018

Throughout this summer we have been looking back at how a number of Palace internationals have fared on duty for their respective countries. Today, we look back at Gabor Kiraly’s lengthy association with the Hungarian national team.

When a 40-year-old Gabor Kiraly took his place between the posts in Hungary’s Euro 2016 opener against neighbours Austria, he became the oldest player to appear in a European Championship finals, extended his record as Hungary’s most-capped player and kept a clean sheet in Hungary’s first game at a major championships for 30 years.

Despite all these achievements in the twilight of a 23-year career spent playing at the top level in Germany, England and his homeland, all journalists wanted to ask him about was one of football’s most famous pieces of clothing tucked away in his kitbag – an unflattering pair of grey tracksuit bottoms.

Fed up of answering the question that has dogged him for two decades he refused, allowing his performance and a century of caps to speak for themselves. However, pre-tournament, he did give an insight into how those trousers helped him reach that milestone.

"It started 20 years ago in Hungary and it brought me luck,” he said to the BBC. "I want to be confident in the game. You cannot just put grey bottoms on in goal [to play well], you have to move your bottom. I want to work and I can only do this in these grey bottoms.

“In the beginning they were black, the kitman didn't wash them on the Friday and on Saturday we had a game. I had no other bottoms so I took the grey ones and that was the start of the luck.”

And when Kiraly did stray away from his trademark sweatpants, disaster struck. Towards the end of his first season at Selhurst Park in March 2005, he decided to face champions-elect Chelsea in a pair of shorts.

Late in the second half, he stooped to collect a tame Matej Kezman cross, and the ball promptly squirmed through his legs and into the net. Eagles fans had never been more relieved to see a pair baggy grey joggers a week later against Middlesbrough.

“I'm a goalie, not a top model!” he told Hungarian publication Lo Journal Francophone de Budapest. “It's essentially a question of comfort. I've played on clay or grass that's been frozen in winter; it makes your legs hurt when you fall so jogging bottoms seemed obvious.

“I always take a size above to facilitate movement. I tried shorts during my spells in Germany and England but it didn't suit me. The end result is more important than your look.”

The end result has typically gone well for the shot-stopper, with the finals in France two years ago handing the glovesman a fitting denouement to his playing days, having featured in the UEFA Champions League for Hertha Berlin, play 111 times for the Eagles between 2004 and 2007 and be named Hungary’s Player of the Year five times.

After adding three more caps to his tally at the Euros, Kiraly hung up his international gloves in November 2016 in a testimonial against Sweden, but he still features in goal today for Hungarian side Haladas, instantly recognisable in those famous grey joggers.

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