Hungary and European football are mourning the loss, at the age of 82, of Karoly Palotai, who refereed four European club competition finals and won an Olympic football gold medal as a player.
Palotai took charge of two European Champion Clubs' Cup finals – the 1976 contest between Bayern München and Saint-Étienne, and the 1981 encounter between Liverpool and Real Madrid. In addition, he officiated at the 1979 European Cup Winners' Cup final between Barcelona and Fortuna Düsseldorf, as well as the first leg of the 1974/75 UEFA Cup final between Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Twente. Moreover, Palotai was a referee at the 1974, 1978 and 1982 FIFA World Cups, with further assignments at the 1980 UEFA Euro final tournament, and the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games. Before turning to refereeing, he had been a successful player with Győr, who reached four Hungarian Cup finals between 1964 and 1968, winning three of them, in addition to getting to the European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-finals in 1964/65. He was also a member of the Hungarian team that won gold in the Olympic football tournament at the Tokyo Games in 1964.
Palotai, who worked as UEFA referee observer following his retirement as a match official, was honoured for his services to European football when he received the UEFA Order of Merit in Diamond at the European body's Congress in the Hungarian capital Budapest in 2016. He also collected a Lifetime Achievement award from the Hungarian FA (MLSZ) a year later.