Matthias Sindelar

Last updated

Matthias Sindelar
Personal information
Full nameMatthias Sindelar
Date of birth(1903-02-10)10 February 1903
Place of birth Kozlov, Austria-Hungary
Date of death 23 January 1939(1939-01-23) (aged 35)
Place of death Vienna, Germany
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position Centre-forward
Youth career
1918–1924 ASV Hertha Vienna
Senior career*
1924–1939 FK Austria Vienna
National team
1926–1937 Austria 43 [1] (26)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Matthias Sindelar (German: [maˈtiːas ˈʃɪndəlaːɐ̯] ; 10 February 1903 – 23 January 1939) was an Austrian footballer.


He played as a centre-forward for the celebrated Austria national team of the early 1930s known as the Wunderteam , which he captained at the 1934 World Cup.

Known as "The Mozart of football" or Der Papierene ("The Paper Man") [2] for his slight build, he was renowned as one of the finest pre-war footballers, known for his fantastic dribbling ability and creativity.

He was voted the best Austrian footballer of the 20th Century in a 1999 poll by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) [3] and was named Austria's sportsman of the century a year before. [4] [5]

Early years

Of Czech descent, Sindelar was born Matěj Šindelář (Czech: [ˈmacɛj ˈʃɪndɛlaːr̝̊] ) in Kozlov, Moravia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the son of Jan Šindelář, a blacksmith, and his wife Marie (née Švengrová). Despite occasional claims that Sindelar was of Jewish origin, the family was Catholic. [6] [7] They moved to Vienna in 1905 and settled in the district of Favoriten, which had a large Czech-speaking community. Young Matěj/Matthias began playing football in the streets of Vienna.

Club career (1918–1939)

At the age of 15, the Sindelar joined Hertha Vienna, playing there until 1924, when he was brought to FK Austria Vienna, whose name at the time was Wiener Amateur-SV, up to 1926. He helped the team win the Austrian Cup in 1925, 1926, 1933, 1935 and 1936, a league title in 1926, and the Mitropa Cup in 1933 and 1936.

In 2001, Sindelar was chosen in Austria's Team of the Century.

Sindelar was arguably one of Europe's best and, in scope, most influential footballers of his generation, recognized for his ball control, passing and dribbling, and especially his creativity. Anecdote has it that some Viennese football fans went to Sindelar's games not only to see him play but to get a better understanding of how football should be played.

In 1938 he appeared as himself in the Austrian film Roxy and the Wonderteam .

Austria national team

From 1926 to 1937, Sindelar was capped 43 times for his country, scoring 26 goals. [8]

He scored four goals in his first three international matches, including one in his debut match, a 2-1 victory over Czechoslovakia on 28 September 1926.

Sindelar became an essential part of the Austrian Wunderteam that was coached by Hugo Meisl, after a falling-out caused by his individualism. David Goldblatt described the events:

He made his international debut in 1926 and played well before falling out of favour with the disciplinarian Meisl. Four years in the international wilderness followed until Meisl was cornered by a gathering of the city's leading football commentators as he sat in the Ring Café in 1931. Everyone was arguing for Sindelar's recall and Meisl changed his mind. Sindelar played. Scotland were beaten and the Wunderteam - already disciplined, organized, hardworking and professional - acquired their playmaker and inspiration, that vital spark of unpredictability. [9]

1934 World Cup

Sindelar and Austria were especially prominent at the 1934 World Cup.

The high point was their defeat of Hungary in quarterfinals, when Sindelar was matched up against centre-half György Sárosi, who would go on to claim a runners-up medal at the following World Cup in France. In a bruising encounter, one Hungarian was sent-off, and Johann Horvath, the Austrian midfielder, was injured and missed the semi-final against Italy.

Austria then suffered a controversial defeat to the host nation, with Sindelar affected by the harsh marking of Luis Monti.

Austria v Germany 1938

On 3 April 1938, the Austrian team played Germany in the Prater Stadium in Vienna its last match as an independent Austrian team, as some weeks earlier, Germany had annexed Austria (Anschluss) and the Nazis ordered the dissolution of the Austrian team into a common team with Germany, even though it had qualified for the 1938 FIFA World Cup.

The match (German: "Anschlussspiel") was dubbed as a game for celebrating the Anschluss and Austria's "coming home to the Reich". The Austrians played on the wish of Sindelar in red-white-red kits (the national flags colours) instead of their traditional white and black. Austria missed out many sitters in a way that looked deliberate. However, in the last 20 minutes, Sindelar and teammate Karl Sesta both scored as the game finished 2–0. [10] Sindelar is reported [ by whom? ] to have celebrated extravagantly in front of senior Nazi dignitaries.

International caps and goals

The following is a list of Sindelar's international appearances and goals with the Austria national football team. [11] [12] [13] [14]

Cap #DateLocationType of
128 Sep 1926 Prague Friendly2–1Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 901
210 Oct 1926 Vienna Friendly7–1Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 902
37 Nov 1926ViennaFriendly3–1Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 901
420 Mar 1927ViennaFriendly1–2Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 900
510 Apr 1927ViennaFriendly6–0Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 480 [15]
66 May 1928ViennaFriendly3–0Flag of Yugoslavia (1918–1943).svg  Yugoslavia 900 [16]
728 Oct 1928Vienna Dr. Gerö Cup 2–0Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 900
823 Mar 1930PragueFriendly2–2Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 900
916 May 1931ViennaFriendly5–0Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 901
1024 May 1931BerlinFriendly6–0Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg  Germany 900
1114 Sep 1931ViennaFriendly5-0Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg  Germany 903
124 Oct 1931 Budapest Dr. Gerö Cup2–2Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 900
1329 Nov 1931 Basel Dr. Gerö Cup8–1Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 901
1420 Mar 1932ViennaDr. Gerö Cup2–1Flag of Italy (1861–1946).svg  Italy 902
1524 Apr 1932ViennaFriendly8–2Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 903 [17]
1622 May 1932PragueDr. Gerö Cup1–1Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 901
1717 Jul 1932 Stockholm Friendly4–3Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 901
182 Oct 1932BudapestFriendly3–2Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 900
1923 Oct 1932ViennaDr.GeröCup3–1Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 900
207 Dec 1932LondonFriendly3–4Flag of England.svg  England 901
2112 Feb 1933ParisFriendly4–0Flag of France.svg  France 901
22.9 April 1933ViennaFriendly1–2Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 900
2330 Apr 1933BudapestFriendly1–1Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 900
2411 Jun 1933ViennaFriendly4–1Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 901
2517 Sep 1933PragueFriendly3–3Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 902
261 Oct 1933ViennaFriendly2–2Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 900
2729 Nov 1933 Glasgow Friendly2–2Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 900
2810 Dec 1933 Amsterdam Friendly1–0Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 900
2915 Apr 1934ViennaFriendly5–2Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 900
3025 Apr 1934Vienna World Cup qualification 6–1Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 901
3127 May 1934 Turin World Cup 3–2Flag of France.svg  France 1201
3231 May 1934 Bologna World Cup2–1Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 900
333 Jun 1934 Milan World Cup0–1Flag of Italy (1861–1946).svg  Italy 900
3423 Sep 1934ViennaDr. Gerö Cup2–2Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 900
357 Oct, 1934BudapestDr.Gerö Cup1–3Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 900
3624 Mar 1935ViennaDr. Gerö Cup0–2Flag of Italy (1861–1946).svg  Italy 900
376 May 1936ViennaFriendly2–1Flag of England.svg  England 900
3817 May 1936RomeFriendly2–2Flag of Italy (1861–1946).svg  Italy 900
3927 Sep 1936BudapestDr. Gerö Cup3–5Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 902
4021 Mar 1937ViennaDr. Gerö Cup2–0Flag of Italy (1861–1946).svg  Italy 730 [18]
419 May 1937ViennaFriendly1–1Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 900
4223 May 1937BudapestFriendly2–2Flag of Hungary 1940.svg  Hungary 900
4319 Sep 1937ViennaDr. Gerö Cup4–3Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 901
==3 Apr 1938ViennaFriendly2–0Flag of Germany (1935–1945).svg  Germany 901 [19]

Team record

In the 43 matches that Sindelar played, Austria had a total record of 25 victories, 11 draws, and 7 losses.

Death and myth

Always refusing to leave his home country, Sindelar refused to play for Germany after Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 (Anschluss), citing old age or injury as his excuse.

Sindelar's grave at Vienna's Zentralfriedhof Ehrengrab Matthias Sindelar.jpg
Sindelar's grave at Vienna's Zentralfriedhof

On 23 January 1939 both Sindelar and his girlfriend Camilla Castagnola were found dead at the apartment they shared in Vienna; the official verdict cited carbon monoxide poisoning as the cause. [20]

Austrian writer Friedrich Torberg later dedicated the poem "Auf den Tod eines Fußballspielers" ("On the death of a footballer") to Sindelar. The poem suggested that he had committed suicide as a result of the German Anschluss of Austria in 1938. On the other hand, it has been thought and reported that his death was accidental, caused by a defective chimney. [21] However, in a 2000s documentary screened on the BBC, Egon Ulbrich, a lifelong friend of Sindelar, stated that a local official was bribed to record his death as an accident, which ensured that he would receive a state funeral. "According to the Nazi rules, a person who had been murdered or who has committed suicide cannot be given a grave of honour. So we had to do something to ensure that the criminal element involved in his death was removed," he stated. [22] It has also been suggested that Sindelar was killed for his opposition for the Anschluss. The Nazi secret police force, the notorious Gestapo, had a file on him and had kept his café under surveillance. [23]


Sindelar was ranked as Austria's best footballer of the twentieth century by the IFFHS, also ranking as the world's 22nd best. His career titles include:


  1. Some sources, including the RSSSF ( Austria - Record International Players ), list 26 goals in 43 matches. Other sources say he appeared in 44 matches or scored 27 goals.
  2. The Paper Man: life and death of a footballer The Guardian
  3. Stokkermans, Karel / RSSSF. "IFFHS' Century Elections". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2007.
  4. Bardelli, Gino / "Sindelar: O craque que não se curvou ao Nazismo" (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 23 December 2006. Retrieved 11 April 2007.
  5. "Austria's greatest". The Football Association. 2 September 2004. Archived from the original on 9 March 2005. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  6. Wilson, Jonathan (3 April 2007). "Sindelar: the ballad of the tragic hero". The Guardian . Retrieved 14 June 2014. There have been suggestions that Sindelar and/or Castignola were Jewish. It is true that Sindelar played for Austria Vienna, the club of the Jewish bourgeoisie, and came from Moravia, from where several Jews had migrated to Vienna, but his family was Catholic.
  7. Hesse-Lichtenberger, Ulrich (2003). Tor!: The Story of German Football. London: WSC Books. p. 83. ISBN   978-0954013455. Despite reports to the contrary, neither Sindelar nor the woman he would soon begin a fatal affair with were of Jewish heritage.
  8. According to, (data matches the statistical archives of the Austrian Football Association: Länderspiele von September 1923 – April 1934 and Länderspiele von April 1934 – Mai 1952 Archived 13 July 2012 at WebCite ) and the RSSSF page Austria – Record International Players. Other sources say he appeared in 44 matches or scored 27 goals.
  9. David Goldblatt, The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer (Penguin, 2008; ISBN   1101097671), p. 257.
  10. Der Papierene
  11. Matthias Sindelar - International Goals. RSSSF
  12. Austrian Football Association. "Statistics of matches of the Austria national team (September 1923 – April 1934)" (PDF). Retrieved 12 April 2007.
  13. Austrian Football Association. "Statistics of matches of the Austria national team (April 1934 – May 1952)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2007.
  14. Kutschera, Ambrosius. "Statistik Österreichischer länderspiele". Retrieved 12 April 2007.
  15. Entered game as substitute (42')
  16. Austria played two matches on 6- 5-1928, vs. Hungary and vs. Yugoslavia: both matches are considered official for Austria but Yugoslavia did not recognise its match vs. Austria as official.
  17. Scored the first 3 of Austria's goals; second international hat-trick in eight months.
  18. Match suspended at the 73rd minute. Not considered official by the Italian Football Federation. Sources: (see note [5]); (see NB);
  19. The celebratory match played between Austria (as Ostmark) and Germany (as Altreich) in the Praterstadion after the Anschluß is not official match for either team.
  20. The 'Paper Man' mystery.
  21. Hesse-Lichtenberger, Uli / "The 'Paper Man' mystery". ESPN . Retrieved 9 April 2007.
  22. (22 September 2003). "Football, fascism and England's Nazi salute". BBC . Retrieved 9 April 2007.
  23. John Ashdown (22 April 2014). "World Cup: 25 stunning moments … No11: Austria's Wunderteam go close". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2014.