Matthias Sindelar

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Matthias Sindelar in the jersey of the Austrian national team

Matthias Sindelar (born February 10, 1903 in Kozlau , Austria-Hungary , † January 23, 1939 in Vienna ), born as Matěj Šindelář , was an Austrian football player , center forward and captain of the legendary wonder team . He has received several awards as the best Austrian footballer of the 20th century and has so far been a great idol of Austrian football.

Sindelar was of Czech descent, came to Vienna with his family as a child and grew up in the working class district of Favoriten . In his first years as a football player at ASV Hertha Wien , he suffered a serious knee injury, whereupon he always wore knee socks, which became his trademark. Because of his slight stature, he was nicknamed The Papierene . He celebrated his greatest successes towards the end of the interwar period with Vienna Austria , with whom he twice won the Mitropa Cup.

Sindelar's career ended with the invasion of the German Wehrmacht on March 12, 1938 . His mysterious death ten months later still gives rise to speculation today.


Childhood and early adolescence

Memorial plaque in Sindelar's birthplace Kozlau, soccer field

Matthias Sindelar was born on February 10, 1903 in the small Moravian village of Kozlau in the Jihlava region. The family was poor. The father was a bricklayer, the mother looked after the four children. When Matthias was three years old, the family, like many others from Bohemia and Moravia, was looking for a better future in Vienna, the imperial capital and residence of the Danube monarchy .

The Sindelar family moved to the 10th district of Favoriten in Vienna and rented a small apartment on Quellenstrasse . At that time, the main brickworks in Favoriten were . According to current estimates, around 300,000 people from Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary settled in Favoriten at that time . The working-class families who moved there remained mostly poor and were disparagingly called brick Bohemia by the locals .

The circumstances in which “Motzl”, the new nickname of Sindelars, grew up were accordingly modest. In Vienna he soon began to chase after the "Fetzenlaberl" (a ball sewn from scraps of fabric) on the "Gstätten" (Viennese term for overgrown place) together with other working class children and was noticed early on for his dribbling . At that time football was not only a distraction from everyday life, but also one of the few opportunities for advancement for working-class children.

The year 1917 was a heavy blow for the Sindelar family. The father died on the Isonzo front during World War I , and from then on the mother had to try to look after her four children on her own. Matthias Sindelar started an apprenticeship as a locksmith at the age of 14 to support his family and at the same time tried to get into the youth team of a favorite football club.

The first years at ASV Hertha

In 1918, the young Matthias Sindelar's talent for football was recognized by Karl Weimann . This, a teacher by profession, looked for young players for clubs in Favoriten and therefore often organized small trainings. Sindelar was able to join the ASV Hertha youth team . The club's stadium, which perished for economic reasons during the Second World War , was located next to Sindelar's house, also on Quellenstrasse on the corner of Steudlgasse.

In addition to his football training, Sindelar continued his apprenticeship as a locksmith, but did not take up this profession later.

In the youth team of the "blue-whites", as Hertha was called after the club colors, Sindelar soon stood out for his sophisticated technique and his "disembodied" game. He tried to avoid duels, in which he would usually be inferior due to his rather slight stature. At Hertha he was given his final nickname “the paper boy” because of this characteristic of his game. At the age of 18, Sindelar made his debut in the fighting team in the Austrian championship and scored his first first division goals in his first season. In the following year he became a regular player for the blue-whites.

In 1923 Sindelar suffered a serious meniscus injury in a serious fall in a swimming pool , which seemed to have ended his still young career. Persistent knee pain made meniscus surgery necessary, which thanks to the famous doctor Dr. Hans Spitzy did an excellent job. From then on, Sindelar always wore his right knee bandaged to be on the safe side. The knee-high became his trademark in the course of his further career. Fearing a new injury that would have meant the end of his career, he increasingly intensified the elegant game without physical contact that made him so famous.

In 1924, Hertha finally slipped into a financial and sporting crisis. The unfortunate tenth place meant the first relegation in the club's history. In order to cover the accumulated debt, several players, including Sindelar, had to be sold. The striker briefly considered leaving Vienna and going to Trieste in Italy . The club, which at that time consisted entirely of Austrian players, played an important role in the Italian championship. Sindelar decided to stay in Vienna, however, and in the summer of 1924 switched to the amateurs , who won their first championship title a few weeks before Sindelar joined. Sindelar's game also suited the technique-oriented style of play of the amateurs.

The successes

The first years with the amateurs

The center forward initially had little difficulties with the amateurs. The slender blond boy did not succeed in asserting himself in the fighting team for the time being. However, these problems were short-lived. Due to his technically well-versed style of play, he attracted more and more spectators and soon became one of the favorite players among amateur fans. Nevertheless, at the time, other players at the Ober St. Veit- based club were responsible for the success. After winning the cup and runner-up in 1925, he won the double in 1926. Outstanding offensive forces were Gustav Wieser and Viktor Hierländer , who together scored 47 championship goals in just 20 games. However, the Hungarian brothers Jenő and Kálmán Konrád had the greatest influence on the playing style of the center forward .

In the following seasons Sindelar played an increasingly important role at Austria Wien , as the amateurs called themselves from November 1926, but initially did not achieve any sporting success. In 1927 he was the best scorer of his club with 18 goals, but this only finished 7th in the championship. In the following two seasons Austria only made eighth place. The only ray of hope remained the cup - winning the title in 1927 and 1930. Despite the rather mediocre successes of Austria, Sindelar was still considered the club's figurehead and one of the most popular players in Vienna.

He was able to make his debut for the Austrian national team against Czechoslovakia as early as 1926 . Sindelar scored the winning goal in Prague for a 2-1 success. Sindelar also remained successful in his next two international matches in 1926. He scored twice in the 7-1 victory over Switzerland and once in the win against Sweden . This was also the reason why at that time numerous clubs were very interested in the young technician, who was under contract with the so "unsuccessful" Austria. In addition to the then record champions SK Rapid Wien , Slavia Prague and Arsenal London also tried to persuade the Viennese to move. The latter even offered Sindelar 40,000 pounds after the legendary international match against England in 1932.

Wonder team

Matthias Sindelar was no longer deployed for 14 games from 1928 by Hugo Meisl , the association captain of the Austrian national soccer team. The reason for this was a defeat against a South German selection, in which Sindelars dribbling and Scheiberlspiel, his tricky short-pass game, led to numerous ball losses on snow-covered ground. On the way home, when asked why the team lost, the striker said to Fritz Gschweidl: “Does Fritz know why we didn't win? Mia shouldn't have had to shit any more! ”Hugo Meisl, who was reluctant to play this kind of game in this form, then put Sindelar out of the team. The pressure from fans, journalists and sports professionals on Meisl to reinstate Sindelar, however, grew. During a verbal argument with some press representatives in the Wiener Ring-Café on the Stubenring , Meisl finally gave in to the sports journalists in 1931 and threw them a note with the words “There you have your Schmiranski team!” With the line-up they wanted for the upcoming Scotland game. Sindelar and Friedrich Gschweidl returned to the team. Sindelar occupied the position of the center forward.

The first game after returning Sindelars in the newly formed National won the Austrians on the Hohenwarte against the favored Scots on 16 May 1931 in front of 60,000 spectators a complete surprise 5: 0th To date, Scotland had been unbeaten on mainland Europe. This victory was the beginning of the most successful triumph in the history of the Austrian national team, the wonder team , as it was soon called. These include the 6-0 victory in Berlin against the German Reich and the 5-0 victory two weeks later in the revenge game in Vienna, with Sindelar scoring three goals. Switzerland was beaten 8-1 in a row, France 4-0, Italy 2-1, Belgium 6-1, Sweden 4-3. Sindelar played what was probably the best game of his national team career against the then great "archenemy" Hungary on April 24, 1932. At that time Hungary, like Austria, was still one of the best teams in the world. Austria won 8-2, Sindelar gave Austria an early lead with two goals, scored another goal before the break and prepared all five other goals.

In 1932 Austria won the European Cup of National Soccer Teams with Sindelar as captain , the forerunner of today's European Championship.

The only defeat of the wonder team brought the national team at that time the greatest international recognition. The team around Captain Sindelar traveled by train to London to take on the English national team on December 7, 1932. England were unbeaten at home and should remain so for another 21 years. So far, no team from mainland Europe had managed to score more than one honorary goal against the English at home. The RAVAG broadcast the match live on the Heldenplatz in Vienna . In the stadium at Stamford Bridge , however, the Austrians were already 2-0 behind at the break before they played their famous combination game in the second half. They made three goals, Sindelar scored 3-2. In the end, however, Austria lost 4: 3, as Adolf Vogl missed the chance to equalize shortly before the end. The technically high quality game played by the Austrians was praised above all by British journalists, and a plaque in Wembley still commemorates the famous game. The era of Sindelar's miracle team finally ended with the 2-1 home defeat against Czechoslovakia on April 9, 1933, after they had won in Prague beforehand.

Mitropacup 1933

In the championship, Sindelars Verein Austria remained mediocre and never qualified for the Mitropa Cup, the forerunner of today's European Cup or the Champions League . In 1933 they reached only sixth place in the table and could only participate thanks to the victory in the cup in the final against Floridsdorfer AC after six failed qualification attempts in a row for the most important trophy of continental European club football. The first participation in the Mitropacup seemed to be over soon. In the quarter-final first leg at Slavia Prague , Sindelar's team lost 3-1, but in front of 32,000 spectators in Vienna a 3-0 win was achieved in the second leg, with Sindelar scoring the decisive goal. Austria Vienna met Juventus Turin in the semifinals . After just three minutes, the violets, as Vienna Austria is also called because of the violet club color, led through a goal by Sindelar in front of 50,000 spectators. With an overall result of 4: 1 they finally rose to the Mitropacup finals.

In the final, Sindelar's team met Inter Milan , then Ambrosiana Inter Milan, with their star striker Giuseppe Meazza . In front of the Italian crowd, Austria fell 2-0 behind, but Viktor Spechtl scored the 2-1 tie shortly before the final whistle. For the game in Vienna on September 8, 1933, 60,000 spectators came to the Vienna stadium. Two Sindelar goals put the Violets in front until shortly before the end, before Giuseppe Meazza equalized the first leg result in Milan with a goal five minutes from time. This would have meant a playoff. But one minute before the end of the game, Sindelar grabbed the ball again and made Austria Wien the Mitropacup winner with his third goal that evening.

World Championship 1934

In 1934 Sindelar traveled with the Austrian national team to the soccer world championship in fascist Italy. Looking back on the winning streak of the past few years, the home fans expected to win the title. Most of the players from the former wonder team, however, had long since moved abroad, especially to France, where they earned better, and were therefore no longer available to the national team, because at that time neither the team boss nor a reasonable observation due to the long travel times regular participation in the games was reasonable. In addition, there was amateurish preparation and bad luck with injuries. During the world championship, important follow-up games of the Austrian championship were held, to which players such as the wonder team striker Hansi Horvath were called up. In the tough qualifying game against Bulgaria (6: 1) Walter Nausch was injured so badly that participation in the World Cup was no longer possible. A total of seven players from the miracle team were missing from the trip to Italy. Coach Jimmy Hogan and supervisors had to forego the ride for financial reasons.

The first game against France could only be won with difficulty 3-2 after extra time - up to now you have always scored at least 4 goals against the French, conceded at most one. Sindelar hit the bar after a free kick from Schall to the interim 1: 1 and put the ball in the extension ideal for Josef Bican , who shot it in from eight meters to make it 3: 1. Things went a little better for the Sindelars team in the quarterfinals. In the classic against Hungary they took a 2-0 lead, but a penalty brought the Hungarians 2-1. With this success he was with the Austrian national team in the World Cup semi-finals, where they met the host's team and just lost 1-0 in a scandalous game.

Austria started very ambitiously and in the initial phase already missed a great opportunity through Sindelar. In the 18th minute, however, the Italian Orsi broke through on the left wing and crossed to the center. Platzer jumped up and was able to catch the ball, but was fouled by Meazza and Schiavio and pushed over the goal line when falling. Platzer was left on the ground in a daze, the Swedish referee Eklind , Benito Mussolini's guest of honor the day before , recognized the goal despite this obvious irregularity. The referee's next offense came in the second season when he deliberately headed off a cross going towards Zischek, who was standing alone in front of goalkeeper Combi. Years later it turned out that the umpires had been bribed; Austria was eliminated in the semifinals. For Sindelar, the World Cup would have come to an end after the tough attacks by the Italians anyway due to injury - he had to cancel participation in the game for third place against the German Reich, in which they lost, as did strike partner Anton Schall . Despite the 4th place, the "Plunderteam", as the disappointed public mockingly called the team after not meeting the high expectations, was welcomed with whistles and shouts of whistles on arrival at Vienna's Südbahnhof.

Mitropacup 1936

After the disappointment at the World Cup, Sindelar was able to celebrate successes again with Austria; not in the championship, but in the Mitropacup. The victory in the cup final with 5: 1 over the Vienna AC, whereby Sindelar scored a double as in the semi-finals, brought the participation in the Mitropapokal again. Here Sindelar again demonstrated his love of the ball and accuracy. In the round of 16, Austria met Inter Milan, against whom they soon led 5-0 at San Siro . Austria President Michl Schwarz was anything but happy with the way the game went - he feared that he would not have any spectators in Vienna. However, 60,000 spectators came to the stadium in the Prater and saw three goals from Sindelar. In the quarter-finals they met the then strong Slavia Prague. After it was tied after two games, there was a playoff in Vienna, which Austria clearly dominated and won 5-2. The game was too easy for Sindelar, however. After he had played out the whole defense and goalie Planicke when the score was 1-0, he waited in front of the empty goal before he played out and shot a returned attacker again. In the semifinals, however, three Sindelar goals were not enough : Austria was eliminated 5-6 against Ferencváros Budapest .

In 1936 they won the cup again, this time 3-0 against Vienna . In the championship, on the other hand, you only finished seventh, a year earlier only eighth. Internationally, Sindelars Austria should be one of the best teams again this season. On the way to the final, the violets scored at least three goals in every home game and were able to beat Grasshopper Club Zurich in the preliminary round (4: 2), FC Bologna in the round of 16 (5: 2), Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals ( 3: 1) and clearly prevailed against Újpest Budapest in the semifinals (7: 2). In the final against Sparta Prague, however, they did not want to score at home. With a goalless draw they went to the Czechoslovak capital. In front of 60,000 spectators in the Letná Stadium on September 13, 1936, Austria was able to conquer the Mitropacup for the second time in four years thanks to Camillo Jerusalem's winning goal.

The Sindelar brand

Matthias Sindelar became the great star of Viennese football after Josef Uridil in the 1920s. His great popularity earned him countless advertising contracts for suits, watches and dairy products. Back then, you could buy Sindelar balls, buy a Sindelar Ulster in the well-known Viennese fashion house Tlapa or admire Sindelar Miag- Fru-Fru eating on advertising posters and learn that Sindelar was the lucky owner of the valuable Alpina-Gruen-Pentagon watch. In Hungary at the beginning of 1938, a successful film - "Roxy and her wonder team" - was shot, in which the now film star played himself.

However, Matthias Sindelar was already concerned about financial security back then. During his career as a professional footballer, he also worked regularly as a department head at the sporting goods company Pohl. Matthias Sindelar was described by friends and fellow players as extremely shy, sensitive and introverted. The half-orphan Sindelar stayed in Favoriten, in his mother's apartment, all his life. In addition, he had a small allotment garden, where he liked to retreat (near what is now Sindelargasse). Sindelar felt a strong connection to his homeland and regularly obtained free tickets for the working class children to the football games.

Death and myth

National Socialism

On March 12, 1938 , the first German soldiers marched across the Austrian border and the country became part of the German Reich. The Austrian soccer team, which had just qualified for the upcoming soccer world championship in France , was dissolved. As a reconciliation, the new rulers organized a " follow-up game " between " Ostmark " and " Altreich ", which was played on April 3, 1938. Captain Sindelar ordered not to play in the traditional black and white dress, but to wear red, white and red, the Austrians' away dress; the Germans were allowed to play in their white and black home kits. Newspapers reported how Sindelar provocatively missed numerous chances in this game and performed a joyful dance in front of the National Socialists' honorary gallery after his goal to make it 1-0. Reich sports leader Hans von Tschammer und Osten urged calm during the half-time break. Austria finally won the next game 2-0, the second goal was scored by Sindelar's friend Karl Sesta with a free kick from 45 meters away.

Austrian football was at an end, all professional football contracts were terminated with immediate effect by a resolution of May 31, 1938, Jewish clubs were banned and their players were arrested. Vienna Austria was one of these Jewish associations at the time. Most of the officials and players fled immediately after the Anschluss; the club was finally allowed to continue to exist under the name SC Ostmark Wien. Sindelar commented on this when the Austrian President Michl Schwarz was relieved of his office and was forbidden to even greet him: "I, Doctor, will always greet you." During this time, Sindelar was repeatedly coached by the Reich trainer Sepp Herberger Called up for the Reich German national team (including for the 1938 World Cup ), but refused to play for them.

After the "Jewified" professional football was banned, Sindelar created a second mainstay by buying the "Annahof" coffee house. The previous owner, a Jew named Leopold Simon Drill, had to give up his coffee house under massive pressure from the Nazis. Sindelar bought the " Aryanized " coffee house for a payment of 20,000 Reichsmarks. Drill, who was later murdered in the Theresienstadt concentration camp , was withheld most of the purchase price by the Nazi city administration. The NSDAP tried early on to capture Sindelar and, when the coffee house opened, announced a great future for East Mark football. The rather “apolitical” Sindelar himself always refused to join the party.

Sindelar last played on December 26, 1938 with his Austria , which was allowed to call itself that again after numerous protests by the population, in Berlin against Hertha BSC and also scored a goal. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

The mysterious death

Memorial plaque to Sindelar in Annagasse 3, Vienna
Honorary grave dedicated to Matthias Sindelar

On January 23, 1939, Sindelar was found dead on his bed at Annagasse 3 ( St. Annahof ), next to him was his girlfriend Camilla Castagnola, a woman of Jewish origin whom he had only met a few weeks earlier. She died the day after Sindelar without regaining consciousness. The official cause of death was "carbon monoxide poisoning". To this day, there are numerous speculations about his immediate death. The Kronen Zeitung in particular spread numerous rumors about Sindelar's death. Police officers were questioned, who confirmed that the damaged chimney, believed to be responsible for Sindelar's death, was in fact not defective. In addition, acquaintances were interviewed, none of whom could imagine suicide. Investigations by the public prosecutor's office "Matthias Sindelar criminal case against unknown perpetrators" remained inconclusive, however, the file is said to have disappeared during the Second World War.

More than 15,000 people followed the center forward to his funeral at Vienna's central cemetery. The Jewish writer Friedrich Torberg published a poem "On the death of a football player" after 1945. Abstract:

[...] The Hohe Warte cheered,
the Prater and the stadium,
when he fooled the enemy with a smile
and pulled away from him with a brisk run.
Until one day another opponent
suddenly stepped in his way,
a strange and terribly superior,
before which there was no rule nor advice. [...]

The National Socialists staged the funeral as a state act and tried to collect the football player for themselves, but they failed. To this day, a memorial service is held annually at his tombstone on the anniversary of Sindelar's death.


Matthias Sindelar was included by the IFFHS in the list of the 100 best footballers of the 20th century , in which he finished 22nd. He was also honored by numerous international soccer magazines at the turn of the century: The English World Soccer ranks Sindelar among the best 100 players of the 20th century, in the Italian Guerin 'Sportivo he was named by his " gray eminence " Adalberto Bortolotti in his selection of the 50 best players of the last century.

On the part of Wiener Austria, the center forward was honored with the renaming of the main stand of their home stadium to Matthias-Sindelar-Tribune.

The playmaker of the wonder team rests in an honorary grave of the municipality in the Vienna Central Cemetery (12B-3-11).

In 1960 the City of Vienna named Sindelargasse in Favoriten after the center forward. On March 18, 2004, the Austrian Post issued a Sindelar postage stamp on which, however, a spelling mistake crept into his first name.


  • ASV Hertha Vienna (1918–1924)
  • today under the name FK Austria Wien : Wiener Amateure SV (1924–1926) / FK Austria Wien (1926–1938) / SC Ostmark Wien (1938–1939)


See also


Web links

Commons : Matthias Sindelar  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl-Heinz Huba: Fußballweltgeschichte , p. 383
  2. ^ Robert Franta, Wolfgang Weisgram: A round life: Hugo Meisl - Goldgräber des Fußballs , p. 185
  3. Oliver Noelle: Das kleine Lexikon der Fußballrekorde , p. 58, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-426-77828-9
  4. ^ WM 1934 Italy ( Memento of October 12, 2006 in the Internet Archive ),
  5. 80 years of "Connection Game": One last dance of the old Viennese . Der Standard, April 3, 2018
  6. Peter Linden, Karl H. Schwind: 100 years of ÖFB , Lindeverlag, p. 50
  7. Kicker special issue : 100 years of German football , Olympia-Verlag , Nuremberg 1999, p. 71
  8. Cafe Annahof, Vienna 10., Laxenburgerstraße 16, Aryanization of the Café Annahof ( Memento from February 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  9. Norbert Mayer : Peter Menasse fights against the role of victim . in: Die Presse , November 12, 2012
  10. ^ Nils Havemann: Football under the swastika , Federal Agency for Political Education, pp. 299-300
  11. WStLA, mortem examinations findings 3728/1939
  12. The grave of Matthias Sindelar
  13. ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  14.  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  16. ^ The Best x Players of the Century / All-Time