Matthias Sindelar

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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 703 (600)
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.

Association football Team field sport

Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a team sport played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field called a pitch with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal.


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]

Austria national football team mens national association football team representing Austria

The Austria national football team is the football team that represents Austria in international competition and is controlled by the Austrian Football Association . Austria has qualified for seven FIFA World Cups, most recently in 1998. The country played in the UEFA European Championship for the first time in 2008, when it co-hosted the event with Switzerland, and most recently qualified in 2016.

Wunderteam was the name given to the Austria national football team of the 1930s. Led by manager Hugo Meisl, the team had an unbeaten streak of 14 games between April 1931 and December 1932. The style of the team was based on the Scottish school of football that focused on quick passing introduced by Englishman Jimmy Hogan. The forward line was complemented by wide half-backs and an attacking centre-half. Matthias Sindelar, Josef Bican, Anton Schall, Josef Smistik and Walter Nausch were the referents of the team that would dominate European football during that era. Matthias Sindelar, known as Der Papierene due to his slight build, was the star and captain of the team.

Captain (association football) team captain of an association football team

The team captain of an association football team, sometimes known as the skipper, is a team member chosen to be the on-pitch leader of the team: it is often one of the older/or more experienced members of the squad, or a player that can heavily influence a game or have good leadership qualities. The team captain is usually identified by the wearing of an armband.

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.

Kozlov (Jihlava District) Municipality in Vysočina, Czech Republic

Kozlov is a village and municipality (obec) in Jihlava District in the Vysočina Region of the Czech Republic. It lies approximately 8 kilometres (5 mi) east of Jihlava and 120 km (75 mi) south-east of Prague.

Moravia Historical land in Czech Republic

Moravia is a historical region in the Czech Republic and one of the historical Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Czech Silesia. The medieval and early modern Margraviate of Moravia was a crown land of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire, later a crown land of the Austrian Empire and briefly also one of 17 former crown lands of the Cisleithanian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918. During the early 20th century, Moravia was one of the five lands of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1928; it was then merged with Czech Silesia, and eventually dissolved by abolition of the land system in 1949.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union between 1867 and 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed when the Austrian Empire adopted a new constitution; as a result Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) were placed on equal footing. It dissolved into several new states at the end of the First World War.

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.

Mitropa Cup

The Mitropa Cup, officially called the La Coupe de l'Europe Centrale or Central European Cup, was one of the first international major European football cups for club sides. After World War II in 1951 a replacement tournament named Zentropa Cup was held, but just for one season, the Mitropa Cup name was revived, and again in 1958 the name of the tournament changed to Danube Cup but only for one season. The tournament was discontinued after 1992.

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 .

<i>Roxy and the Wonderteam</i> 1938 film directed by János Vaszary

Roxy and the Wonderteam is a 1938 Austrian musical sports film directed by Johann von Vásáry and starring Rosy Barsony, Fritz Imhoff and Hans Holt. It is based on an operetta called Roxy und ihr Wunderteam. A separate Hungarian-language version was also produced. The title is an allusion to the Wunderteam, the acclaimed Austria national football team of the 1930s and features an appearance by former captain Matthias Sindelar as himself.

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:

Cap (sport) sports game between two national teams

In sport, a cap is a metaphorical term for a player's appearance in a game at international level. The term dates from the practice in the United Kingdom of awarding a cap to every player in an international match of association football. In the early days of football, the concept of each team wearing a set of matching shirts had not been universally adopted, so each side would distinguish itself from the other by wearing a specific sort of cap.

Czechoslovakia national football team former mens national association football team representing Czechoslovakia

The Czechoslovakia national football team was the national association football team of Czechoslovakia from 1920 to 1992. The team was controlled by the Czechoslovak Football Association, and the team qualified for eight World Cups and three European Championships. It had two runner-up finishes in World Cups, in 1934 and 1962, and won the European Championship in the 1976 tournament.

Hugo Meisl Austrian footballer

Hugo Meisl, brother of the journalist Willy Meisl, was the multi-lingual football coach of the famous Austrian 'Wunderteam' of the early 1930s, as well as a referee.

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 flag's 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 (by then 35 years) 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:

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  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.