The EuroLeague Women Final Four is an opportunity for celebration, a fact that organising club Pecs have exploited to the fullest in the past 2 days. As well as of course the final four games, they held a streetball tournament, organised a big tent next to the arena for the 3,000 spectators who could not get tickets and erected a big screen in the city centre to show the games live.
They also used the event as a chance for reflection and to honour a legend in the city of Pecs and in the entire country, Judith Horvath.
“She became an idol, says Hungarian radio commentator Peter Horvath (no relation)
“She was the captain of the team and the most popular player. She always played for Pecs, not just for the team but for the town. It’s difficult to express yourself when speaking about her because she was more, much more than a basketball player.”
Horvath’s memory was honoured today with the unveiling of the statue “Basketball Woman” outside the Lauber Dezsö Sports Hall in Pecs. The statue was funded by the city of Pecs, the basketball club and donations poured in from the townspeople. It was unveiled by Mayor of Pecs Dr. Laszlo Toller, President of the Hungarian Parliament (and Honorary President of the basketball club) Dr. Katalin Szili, Pecs General Manager Mr. Gabor Rosza and FIBA Europe Executive Director Mr. Nar Zanolin.
“She was like Yannick Souvré in Bourges, or Franz Beckenbauer in Bayern Munich,” says Rosza. “She was born in Pecs and that was important for us. We want to make something near to the gym to remember her.
Horvath, a point guard, represented the Pecs basketball club at all youth levels and was the captain of every age group in which she played. Her number (11) was retired by the club and a banner hangs in the rafters of the Sports arena.
Horvath’s legacy cannot just be measured in wins and losses, but in her impact on women’s basketball in Hungary. In what is the 3rd biggest city in the country, Pecs boasts a first division football team, men’s and women’s handball teams and of men’s and women’s basketball.
But it is the women’s basketball team that is the number one draw in town and they attract far more fans than any of their competitors, most notably football. For this popularity, Horvath can take much of the credit and since her death Pecs have been dominant in the domestic league, winning 3 of the past 4 championships.
The current success of the club does not take away from the tragedy of Horvath’s death at the age of just 34, but she will always be remembered in the city that she represented.