THE COACH WHO CURSED BENFICA OUT OF ANGER
THE COACH WHO CURSED BENFICA OUT OF ANGER
Who Is He?
His name is Béla Guttmann, born in Budapest into a Jewish family. He represented the Hungarian national team during his playing days. At club level, he played for various teams such as , MTK Hungaria, Hakoah Wien, New York Giants, amongst others before calling time on his playing career at Hakoah All-Stars .
Bela Guttmann was known for staying not more than 2years in almost all the clubs he coached except for Benfica where he spent 3years, unfortunately it came with some consequences. In fact, between 1933 to 1958(the year before he signed for Benfica), a period of 25years, he managed 17teams, yes 17teams in 25years!
During his time with Ac milan, he was sacked because of some disagreement between him and the club even though the club was top of the league table. After his sack, he granted a press conference where he said:
“I have been sacked even though I am neither a criminal nor a homosexual. Goodbye .”
From then on he insisted on a clause in his contract that he could not be sacked if his team were top of the table.
Bella Guttman had guts and wasn’t afraid to take a walk away if he feels uncomfortable with a situation.
One of such situation came at Romanian club Ciocanul, where Guttmann received his salary in vegetables due to food problems in the country. The president dared to think he could influence the team selection. Gutmann response was : “You’ve got the basics. Good luck!” and left the club without looking back.
Although he appeared brash, tactically he was a very good coach and success arrived when he left Sao Paulo in Brazil for Porto in Portugal. He led Porto to the league title in 1959, overhauling a 5-point lead that Benfica held. As his manner is, he left the next season to arch rivals Benfica. It was with Benfica that the curse was born after achieving unbelievable success with the team.
What Then Is The Curse Of Bela Guttmann?
In the first 5years of the European Cup, Real Madrid were the most dominant club in Europe. In fact, they had won the European Cup (today’s Champions League) for five consecutive years. That is from the first year when the competition started in 1955 to 1960. However with the appointment of Bela Guttmann at Benfica, Real Madrid dominance ended. Barcelona had defeated Real Madrid in the first round of the 1961 European Cup before booking a place in the final to face Guttmann’s team. However, Benfica was just too good for Barcelona, edging Barca by a goal in their 3-2 victory to win their first European Cup. If that was considered a fluke, what happened the next season proved otherwise.
Guttmann’s Benfica met a Real Madrid team who had the legendary Puskas in their ranks, although the legendary attacker scored thrice, to give Madrid a 2-0 and 3-2 lead, Benfica came back stronger to win 5-3 with the help of a young Eusebio who would later become a legend himself. Guttman did not just end Real Madrid’s dominance, he established Benfica as the new dominant team by winning the European Cup twice in a row(1961 and 1962) and the league in 1960 and 1961. The 1962 season was Guttmann’s 3rd season with the club, the first and only time he spent three seasons at a club.
After winning the second European trophy, Guttmann asked the club for a pay rise/bonus for what he has achived with the team, which isn’t a wrong thing to do. However, they refused, instead they terminated his contract.
It was this act by the club that infuriated Guttman who cursed the club saying:
“Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion.”
At that time, many would have taken his statement for granted, since then, Benfica have played in eight(8) European finals – five in the European Cup(Champions League) and three times in the UEFA Cup/Europa League – and lost all of them.
They lost 2-1 to Ac Milan in 1963, 1-0 to Inter Milan in 1965, 4-1 to Manchester United (aet) in 1968, 2-1 to Anderletch in 1983, 6-5(on penalties) to PSV in 1988, 1-0 to Ac Milan in 1990, 2-1 to Chelsea in 2013 and 4-2(on penalties) to Sevilla in 2014.
In all the finals Benfica reached after Guttmann’s death in 1981, fans, players and even family members go to his graveside to ask for forgiveness.
It was reported that before the 1990 European Cup final in Vienna(the city where Guttman was buried ) Eusebio went to his graveside to ask Guttmann to forgive the club and lift the curse, but it wasn’t to be as the Portuguese outfit lost 1-0 to Milan.
The Club even unveiled a status of Guttmann in front of their stadium in what looked like a move to appease the deceased Guttmann but it proved futile. In fact, they thought the curse will be lifted when they faced Chelsea in 2013 at the city where Guttmann cursed the Club (Amsterdam) but they lost to an Ivanovic injury time header.
This is 2020, 58years after that infamous curse, 8 finals have been played in European competitions and Benfica have lost all of them. At the end of the day, Benfica went from being an European powerhouse to… not winning an European title for 58years!
If this curse is anything to go by, it may take until 2062 when the curse will be 100years old before Benfica wins an European trophy.
Whether you believe that the curse is the reason for losing 8 finals or not, let this words be with you, that “One good turn deserves another “.
Moral: Don’t use people and dump them.