IN 1969, when football in eastern Europe was still something of a mystery, Jozef Adamec finished joint 15thin the Ballon d’Or voting, with the same number of points as Manchester United’s Bobby Charlton. This was no mean feat and underlined that Adamec had made a significant impact on football writers across the continent.
This week, Slovak football is in mourning for the man who became a legend at the age of 26 years of age, thanks to a well-taken hat-trick in an international friendly match against Brazil in Bratislava (including half a dozen of the famous 1970 World Cup winners) in the summer of 1968. Adamec died at the age of 76 on Christmas Eve.
Aside from that memorable 3-2 win for Czechoslavakia, Adamec was the talisman of a Spartak Trnava team that reached the European Cup semi-final in 1968-69. His football CV is impressive and includes two World Cups and a club career that took in spells with Trnava, Dukla Prague and Slovan Bratislava, among others.
Born in Slovakia on February 26 1942, Adamec was just 20, the youngest man in the squad, when he took part in the 1962 World Cup in Chile, playing all three group games against Spain, Brazil and Mexico, before sitting out the latter stages as the Czechs reached the final to meet Brazil. At the time, he was completing his national service and so he was assigned to army club Dukla.
At club level, he was a prolific scorer, netting 170 goals in the top division in Czechoslavakia. In his second spell with Spartak Trnava, he was the leading scorer in the league in 1967, 1968, 1970 and 1971. His glorious run was interrupted only by Ladislav Petráš of World Cup 1970 fame.
Adamec went to Mexico after a successful 1968-69 campaign which included that impressive European Cup. Spartak had won the league title in 1968 with a five point margin over Slovan Bratislava and Adamec had scored 18 goals.
In the European Cup, which got underway amid increasing tension in Czechoslavakia, Adamec scored a hat-trick in 22 minutes against Steaua Bucharest in the first round. In the second round, he scored in both legs against Finland’s Reipas Lahti as Trnava won 16-2 on aggregate. The last eight saw them squeeze past AEK Athens.
Up against an emerging Ajax in the semi-final, Trnava went close to turning around a three-goal deficit from the first leg, but lost 3-2 over the two games. This run, coming just months after the hat-trick against Brazil, raised Adamec’s profile to a new level.
He stayed with Trnava until 1977, ending up as assistant coach and then spent three years in Austria with Slovan Wien. His managerial career, which included four stints with Trnava and more than three years as coach of Slovakia, finally ended in 2008.