Amputee Wins Prestigious FIFA Puskás Award

WARSAW, POLAND - 27 MARCH 2023: UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying match, Poland vs Albania 1:0, o.p: Lukasz Wachowski (L), Marcin Oleksy (C) the winner of FIFA Puskas Award 2023, Cezary Kulesza (R)

(Featured Photo Credit: Mikolaj Barbanell / Shutterstock.com)

The FIFA Puskás Award is given for the most spectacular goal scored in competition for all of men’s and women’s football (soccer). It is named after legendary player Ferenc Puskás, who scored 84 goals in 85 matches for Hungary.

Puskás became an Olympic champion in 1952, reached the finals of the World Cup in 1954, and won three European cups and ten national championships. In total, he scored 806 goals in 793 official games.

Cristiano Ronaldo won the initial award when it was created. Stars like Neymar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have also received this honor.

In 2023, Polish amputee player Marcin Oleksy received this incredible accolade for an unbelievable scissor-kick volley. [1]

Oleksy Is the First Player with Physical Disabilities to Win an All-Player Honor

According to FIFA, the “Polish ace combined exceptional athleticism, imagination and technique to score with a jaw-dropping acrobatic effort in a game for Warta Poznan last November [2022].”

The Puskás Award is open to all competitive players. Oleksy’s win is the first time a major FIFA honor has gone to someone with a physical disability.

Life was not always this way for Marcin Oleksy. He used to earn a living as a construction worker. Everything changed on November 20, 2010.

Oleksy was working to fill a hole in a road when a vehicle veered off and struck him. Only 23 years old at the time, his legs were crushed underneath it.

“I didn’t feel pain at that time,” Oleksy said. “I was just scared of whether I would live or die.” [2]

Oleksy doesn’t remember much between when he was extracted from the vehicle and when he woke up after the operation. “That is when I saw what had happened. That one of my legs was gone.”

Many people in his situation would feel sad or angry, but Oleksy says his reaction was different. “Maybe that was because after the accident, I saw how my legs looked. I was maybe somehow prepared for that.”

Oleksy Has Always Been a Footballer

Although Oleksy was involved with the sport from a young age, he was more known for stopping goals than scoring them when he was young. “I idolized Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas,” he says, with an almost embarrassed grin as he recalls a moment from his childhood.

It doesn’t take long to see why people are instantly attracted to Oleksy’s personality. He says that part of the reason why it was such a special day to receive the Puskás Award was that Robert Lewandowski, a fellow countryman, received a third straight nomination for the FIFA Best Men’s Player Award at the same time.

Then he gets quiet for a moment. Oleksy recalls the moments after he was released from the hospital. “I was in a wheelchair,” he said. “It was really hard for me at the beginning because most of the responsibilities were managed by my partner. She was pregnant, and I felt like I was another baby.”

He credits his partner for helping him to get back on his feet. It took Oleksy two years to transition from the wheelchair to crutches. It wasn’t until 2019 that he could start playing competitively again.

“The first time I kicked a ball after the accident was with my son,” Oleksy said with prideful eyes. “It made me so happy. That was a turning point for me. I started to train again, and then I started to play amputee football.”

It didn’t take long for Oleksy to make a name for himself. He quickly earned a call-up to the national team. His manager describes him as a “crazy, crazy guy.”

“He is so motivated to be the best,” said Artur Kurzawa, the manager of the Polish amputee national team. “I was talking to him one year ago in the pub and he told me that this would be his year. Only a few weeks into 2023 and he wins one of the biggest awards in football.”

Everyone on the national team wanted to take a picture with Oleksy’s leg because it scored such an amazing goal. “Everyone loves Marcin because he is so positive,” said Kurzawa.

Oleksy has many virtues, but his outlook on life creates such an inspirational journey. “After my accident, my life could have gone in a totally different direction,” he said. “It could have gone badly, but instead, I got stronger.”

A beautiful story about the power of the human spirit and its resilience!


[1] https://www.fifa.com/fifaplus/en/articles/amputee-footballer-oleksy-wins-fifa-puskas-award-richarlison-payet-the-best ; [2]https://www.fifa.com/fifaplus/en/articles/marcin-oleksy-amputee-footballer-puskas-award-the-best-football-awards-wonder-goal