Bela Guttmann: Lifetime on the Move

Aug 30, 2020

Life Stories

Bela Guttmann

Beginnings

Bela Guttmann was born in 1899, one of the 200.000 Jewish-Hungarians living in Budapest at that time. He played for MTK Budapest, winning league championships in 1920 and 1921. He also played six times for Hungary. Guttman moved to Vienna in 1922. There he joined the all-Jewish club, Hakoah Vienna. In 1926, Hakoah toured the United States. Bela Guttmann chose to stay behind in America, playing for New York Giants.

The Master Coach

Bela Guttmann returned to Europe in 1932 to coach his old club Hakoah Vienna. Guttmann then coached Enschede in Holland before moving to Ujpest in his home city. Ujpest won titles but Guttmann became a target of anti-Jewish persecutions in Hungary. He survived by escaping from a labour camp, but his father and his sister were killed in Auschwitz. After 1945, Guttmann went back to coaching Ujpest. He had success, but quit the club in 1948 after a row with his team.

Legacy

Bela Guttmann’s career was famous for winning titles, for his innovative tactics, and for his stormy relations with players and club owners. He rarely stayed anywhere for long and was always on the move: AC Milan, back to Hungary, São Paulo in Brazil, and to Portugal, with Porto and Lisbon, where he won two European Cups with Benfica. Bela Guttmann died in 1981. On the 110th anniversary of his birth, Benfica unveiled a statue of him.

Thinking points

Bela Guttmann was a wanderer. He played football in Hungary, Austria and the United States. He managed teams in Hungary, The Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Portugal. He owned businesses including dance schools and speakeasies (bars serving alcohol illegally) in Prohibition America. He was many times successful and many times fired, sometimes both at the same time. As a Jew he escaped the Holocaust by hiding in his girlfriend’s house. On what would have been his 110th birthday, Benfica of Lisbon unveiled a statue in his memory.

Educators could look at the life story of Bela Guttmann and work with young people to consider these questions:

  1. What can be learned from Bela Guttmann’s life story about football and migration?
  2. How was Guttmann able to adapt so well to different countries and cultures?

Find out more

A recent lecture by Historian David Bolchover at The Wiener Holocaust Library gives great insights into the state of research on his life on and off the pitch. Read and listen to more about him on Jewish Museum Berlin which offers a lecture (in German) by historian Detlev Claussen. You can also watch a short presentation by Mr Claussen about Guttman on YouTube. Game of the People published on Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 a perspective on Jewish inflluence on Football. Guttman’s wider football career is best explored on Wikipedia.

COVER Image

Béla Guttmann with the Hakoah Wien jersey

Béla Guttmann with the Hakoah Wien jersey.

Life Story

Connecting Hungary, Austria, USA, The Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Portugal.

70

Article Tags:   20th century  |   integration  |   migration

Do you wanna know more?

HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS

Stories

Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.

Videos

Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.

Educational Resources

Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.

Trending Stories

The Climb to Equality

The Climb to Equality

Football Makes History spoke with Laura Youngson, co-founder of Equal Playing Field and co-owner of the world record for highest altitude official football match ever played. This is the story of why we wanted to retell this story, and how we did it....

LATEST POST  You may also be interested in

Football: A People’s History of Europe?

Football: A People’s History of Europe?

In cooperation with the festival “Forum on European Culture”, we spoke with author David Goldblatt about the value of football for Europe, taking historical perspectives.

Playing the game for peace

Playing the game for peace

On this day, 21 September, we look at how playing a game of football can contribute to peace by looking at the work of the NGO Childrens Football Alliance.

September in Football

September in Football

As the UEFA 2020 European Championships got pushed ahead one year, we provide you with a 365-day #onthisday series of posts to help all fans out there to go back in time, think, and reflect.

Football speaking out in perspective

Football speaking out in perspective

Football represents a large cultural space in society. It is not isolated from political developments. How have football players used this space to achieve their social goals?

Share This