Matthias Sindelar: Austria’s sportman of the Century?

Jun 5, 2020

Life Stories

Matthias Sindelar

Beginnings

Matej Sindelar was born in Kozlov, Moravia (now the Czech Republic but then Austria-Hungary) in 1903. His family migrated to Vienna when Matthias was two; he played football in the streets there. He played for Hertha Vienna from the age of 15, and then joined FK Austria Vienna in 1924.

Austria’s ‘Mozart of Football’

Austria Vienna won the league title in 1926, and seven cup finals between 1925 and 1936. Of slender build, his nickname was ‘Der Papierene’ (Paper Man) Sindelar was famous for his dribbling and creative play. He played 43 times for Austria, scoring 26 goals. This ‘Wunderteam’, coached by Hugo Meisl, was expected to win the 1934 World Cup but lost to Italy in the semi-final. In 1938, Sindelar starred as himself in a film, Roxy und das Wunderteam.

Legacy

In April 1938 Austria played Germany in Vienna (and won 2-0). The match was special because Germany had just annexed Austria in the Anschluss; Hitler decreed there would be no Austria team in future, just one ‘Greater Germany’. Sindelar never played for Germany. He was 35 years old, which provided an excuse. In 1939, Sindelar and his Italian girlfriend were found dead in their flat. Most people assumed it was suicide, a protest against the Nazis. Recent research suggests this is unlikely. (Some people say Sindelar was Jewish but he was not; his family was Catholic).

Thinking points

Matthias Sindelar was a sporting hero, named Austria’s ‘Sportsman of the Century’ in a public opinion poll in 1999). It is often claimed he was also a political hero; that his mysterious death in 1939 was as a victim of the Nazis because he was against the Nazi takeover of Austria. But some historians believe this is just a myth, because Sindelar joined the Nazi Party and because he got to own a café previously belonging to Jews.

Educators could look at the life story of Matthias Sindelar and work with young people to consider this question:

  1. How much he was, or was not, a political hero as well as a sporting one?
  2. How can we find out? What is the role of evidence?

Find out more

To learn more about Matthias Sindelar check out this video. You can also read this article or this one. More about his life story is published in this and this article in The Guardian.

COVER Image

Matthias Sindelar (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Matthias Sindelar (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Life Story

Matthias Sindelar was an Austrian sporting hero but also a political one. His death led to many myths. His story is one about Politics and myth creation.

4

Article Tags:   fans  |   identity  |   politics  |   World War 2

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