Popluhár in 1966
|Date of birth||12 September 1935|
|Place of birth||?eklís, Czechoslovakia|
|Date of death||6 March 2011(aged 75)|
|Place of death||Bernolákovo, Slovakia|
|1955-1958||Rudá Hv?zda Brno|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Ján Popluhár (12 September 1935 - 6 March 2011) was a former Slovak footballer who primarily played as a sweeper for Slovak club ?K Slovan Bratislava. At international level, he was also a member of the Czechoslovakia national team, playing in two World Cups (1958 and 1962).
Popluhár started his football career after high school with RH Brno. However, he is best known for the 15 seasons he spent with ?K Slovan Bratislava where he made 262 competitive appearances in defence, scoring 21 goals, and following further stints with Brno and Zbrojovka Brno finished on 306 Czechoslovak league games and a goalscoring tally of 24. After finishing his career with Slovan in 1968 he moved to French league side Olympique Lyonnais. Two seasons there were enough, but subsequently he spent five years with Austrian amateur club SK Slovan Vienna as player/coach. Many of the thousands of fans in Vienna thought that Popluhár would be shown up by players twenty years younger than he was, but this did not happen. However, at the age of 44 Popluhár realised that his playing career was over.
Slovan Bratislava coach Leopold astný was famous for creating nicknames for his players, and so Popluhár became known in Slovak football circles as 'Bimbo'. "I was called this because I always looked, and indeed was, good-natured, and I would never hurt anybody", recalls Popluhár.
At the 1962 World Cup in Chile, instead of turning the situation to his team's advantage, Popluhár brought the referee's attention to the injured Pelé. In 1997, he was awarded the World Fair Play award for this sporting act. "I met Pelé several times, the first occasion in Chile and then in various international and club games. He was undoubtedly the best, but there were not many one-to-one situations he won and also not many Slovak players who scored in the famous Maracanã stadium. I belong to this lucky group after I scored with a free kick against Brazil in June 1966", he remembers.
Czechoslovak football was well represented in 1963 at Wembley Stadium in a match to mark the centenary of the English Football Association. Popluhár, along with Svatopluk Pluskal and Josef Masopust, played in a world team that included Alfredo Di Stéfano, Raymond Kopa, Uwe Seeler, Denis Law, Eusébio and Ferenc Puskás against an England eleven. Further appearances in all-star teams followed.
Popluhár was elected Footballer of the Year in the former Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1965, despite the great form of his Czechoslovak teammate Josef Masopust. "When I was at my peak, the conditions for a football player were modest here in Czechoslovakia, but the spirit and support of the spectators was incredible. I am not sure that today's players, however, would want to return to my era", he said.
After working for a sports company that went bankrupt and suffering prolonged health problems resulting in a modest invalidity pension and an unsuitable job, he returned to his footballing roots.[clarification needed]