Josef Bikan, from Austria-Hungary to Czechoslovakia, the story of a football legend

Josef Bikan, from Austria-Hungary to Czechoslovakia, the story of a football legend

His name suddenly returned to the headlines in March 2022, 21 years after his death: Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed Joseph Bikan as the top scorer in football history. An opportunity to remember the life of this misunderstood man.

A quick look at his biography Plunge us into Europe another century. Josef Bikan was born on September 25, 1913 in Vienna, the capital of what was then Austria-Hungary, in the midst of World War I. And more than a century after his birth, this man still took first place in the rating of football players who scored the most goals in official matches. If Pele, Maradona or Cruyff is very famous, it is different with Joseph Bikan, with an amazing career. The man is unknown until today, even if his name returned to the front of the stage in March 2022 when Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo broke his famous record.

Joseph’s beginnings were very humble. Mother Ludmila worked in the kitchens of a restaurant while her father František was a footballer at Hertha Vienna. Tragically, the man died at the age of 30, from an injury he sustained during a match, when he returned unscathed from the battlefields of World War I. Joseph loses his father when he was only 8 years old. The boy decides to play football too, often playing without shoes, and creates a ball with scraps of fabric.

World Cup with Austria

Very quickly, his tenacity and athletic qualities would make him explode. Joseph Bikan is skilled in both feet, he has a very good vision of the game, and according to the information left from that time, he can run 100 meters in 10.8 seconds … an exceptional time. At the age of 15-16, he had already started scoring goals for his first teams and was watched by the biggest club in Austria, Rapid Wien, which he joined when he was 18 years old.

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Accumulation continues. While the club wanted to continue his training, the leaders must face the facts, the young man is already ready. He became a regular starter and scored 40 goals in 36 matches in his first two seasons. Austrian vice-champion in 1933 and 1934, he won the title in 1935, and also finished top scorer with 29 goals in just 22 matches. He is so good that he was subsequently selected in the Austrian national team. And beware, at the time it was one of the best teams in the world, and the nickname “Wunderteam”. The striker participates in the 1934 World Cup. Austria is one of the favorites but must pass extra time to eliminate France in the round of 16. Joseph Bikan scored the goal 3-1, and the team eventually won 3-2, but lost to hosts Italy in the semi-finals and then to Germany in the small final. Swedish referee for the semi-finals of Italy and Austria (who also officiated the final) He was to be invited to dinner by Mussolini…

New life in Czechoslovakia

Three years later, Josef Bikan decided to sign Slavia Prague and settle in the Czech capital, the country in which he grew up. A choice for sporting reasons and not only: the danger of “Annexation”, the invasion of Austria by Nazi Germany, is very great. In Slavia, the striker shows all his qualities in play and does not stop scoring. With this team, Bikan played 274 matches and scored … 534 goals! Or an insane rate of 1.95 achievements per game. He finished Europe’s top scorer five times in a row, with 50 goals in 1940 and 57 in 1944.

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Josef Bikan also decided, as was possible at that time, to change the national team and play for Czechoslovakia. He even wears the shirt of another team, which has only been around for a while: the Bohemia Moravian Choice, a political entity created by the German Third Reich in 1939. Josef Bikan played his first match with this team on November 12 this year … he scored a hat-trick Against Germany and let his team draw 4-4!

Regardless of his jersey, his national team, Joseph Bikan continued to do what he knows how to do best: score. ” Pekan had the great misfortune that at the height of his career there was no World Cup, in 1942 and 1946, due to the war. Had it happened in 1942, for example, it would surely have become more popular. Perhaps he could have become as famous as Pele”, Radovan Jelinek, sports historian, said:.

Characterized by political ideas

Anyway, the guy we named “Baby,” had a long career, and he didn’t stop playing until he was 44, in 1957! The number of his goals scored varies according to the sources and the number of matches that have been counted. FIFA holds 805 goals in 530 official matches. Which is still more than 1.50 goals per game…

Juventus Turin expressed interest in him after World War II, but Joseph Bikan believed that the Communists were preparing to seize power and did not share these political views. However, Czechoslovakia fell into the Eastern Bloc and into the communist regime after the Prague coup d’état of February 17-25, 1948. The country’s new leaders first tried to get close to him so that he too would be a symbol of the party. But Joseph Bikan refuses. The player is then gradually alienated, tied to an ancient political system, and he is described as the “Vienna bourgeoisie”. We must realize that far from his childhood, his lifestyle has become more luxurious, with dinners in the company of actors. He left Prague for a time to join a football club run by steelworkers but then returned to the Czech capital. After ending his sports career, Bikan became a coach and worked in various clubs in Czechoslovakia, where he lived until the end of his life. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the departure of the Communists from power, the legendary striker was more and more recognized. The International Federation of Football Historians and Statisticians (IFFHS) awarded him a special Golden Ball in recognition of his status as the top scorer of the 20th century. Josef Bikan died in Prague in 2001 and after 21 years his name returned to the media as Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo scored 807 goals in official matches and Bikan relegated to the history books forever. It is important to remember what this very special athlete had, between Austria and Czechoslovakia.

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sources:
https://www.histoiredesport.fr/post/josef-bican-de-la-gloire-%C3%A0-l-oubli
https://www.fifa.com/ar/news/bican-attacker-qui-marque-a-vie
https://www.football-the-story.com/blog/josef-bican
https://www.ouest-france.fr/leditiondusoir/2019-10-15/loin-devant-cristiano-ronaldo-qui-est-josef-bican-le-meilleur-buteur-de-lhistoire-du-foot- 139517c2-fbd5-4630-b0c1-121ab8b11c95
http://www.goaldentimes.org/josef-pepi-bican-the-lonely-man-at-the-top/
https://gameofthepeople.com/2022/03/16/a-central-european-odyssey-the-life-of-josef-bican-2/

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About the Author: Germano Álvares

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