It was not until 2007 that many fans of Italian, Hungarian and worldwide football learned of the existence of one of the greatest technical directors in history, Arpad Weisz, died in the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 31, 1944.
The then editor of one of the most recognized European magazines, the Italian Guerin Sportsman, Mateo Marani, was leafing through an old publication calendar when he discovered Weisz’s story, which dazzled him and led him to write a book that is out of print and is still sought after by fans, “Of the Scudetto at Auschwitz”: An innovative manager who brought about a definite change in the way football is viewed, and who suddenly had to give up everything to escape the Nazis along with his family, and paid dearly to be Jewish, as did his wife and her two sons.
He was born in Solt, Hungary, on April 16, 1896 and from a very young age he was always seen with a ball at his feet. Nobody was surprised then when he started playing soccer at the highest level as leftmost. He was clever and intelligent and in those days, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolving, the teams in the Danube River area dazzled with their game and their stars, including an Austrian, who was seven years his junior, Matías Sindelar, later considered the best in the world, and also with a tragic ending, although different from his.
He made his debut at a very young age in the Hungarian Törekvés, came to play for Makabi Brno in Czechoslovakia, and between 1922 and 1923 won seven international titles when he had the chance to play in Spanish soccer. He participated in a game with Barcelona, which at that time was coached by the Hungarian Jesza Poszonyi, and ended up at UD Girona for six months
He was summoned to participate with his national team in the Paris Olympic Games in 1924 and although he did not play, he was able to appreciate an enormous experience because he was directed by Hugo Meisl, then coach of the Austrian Wunderteam (Wonder Team) that would mark the football of the 30s , and the captain was Bela Gutman, also a Jew, who was able to survive Auschwitz and then became the technical director of Eusebio’s Benfica in the 1960s, who would win the European Champions Cup twice.
After the Olympics he was transferred to Inter, but he retired after two years, in 1926, due to an injury. He decided then to dump all the knowledge learned as a player, from his great teachers. And he became technical director and his first action was to travel immediately to Buenos Aires and Montevideo to learn about the tactical systems that were used in the Río de la Plata area because Argentine and Uruguayan football was considered of the highest level, together with the Austrian and the Hungarian.
He also devoted himself to studying the main European coaches such as the Italian Vittorio Pozzo (later two-time world champion 1934 and 1938), his former coach Hugo Meisl, and Herbert Champman, who had implemented the “WM” tactical system at the English Arsenal and readjusted it. for Italian soccer. He was immediately appointed assistant coach at Alessandria and shortly after he moved to Inter Milan when he was only 30 years old.
Already at Inter he was able to develop all his capacity, causing a total change in the culture of training and the care of the footballer. Descubrió to Giuseppe Meazza (Today the Inter stadium bears his name), at that time a 16-year-old young man who over time would become one of the best players in the history of Calcio. He noticed his conditions, but it made him gain weight with a different diet, he improved his less skillful leg with differentiated training with repeated shots to a fronton, and he instilled tactical discipline until he made his debut in the first team at just 17 years old. Meazza would win the 1934 and 1938 World Cups with the Italian team from Pozzo – his admirer and friend of Meisl-, who wrote the prologue to a book that Weisz presented at that time, called “The game of football” and which was considered a species game bible.
Weisz won the 1930 scudetto with Inter when he was just 33 years old, and to this day he is the youngest manager to win a league title in Italy. It was just in the season in which Inter had merged, supposedly for financial reasons, with Unione Sportiva Milanese. It became Ambrosiana, a name that would last until the end of World War II and that many associate with a necessary adaptation to the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, who sought to Italianize names with foreign connotations. In fact, Weisz already faced his first personal problem with political power, when he had to change his surname to Veisz.
He was also a mentor to another crack, Fulvio Bernardini, who would later become the first Italian coach to win the Scudetto with two different teams, Fiorentina and Bologna. Weisz used to wear it to watch Inter’s “Primavera” (lower divisions) youth together.
Another fundamental change that he promoted was the way of standing in each training. Until his arrival, the coaches used to direct from the center of the playing field or from the sides but without moving and dressed in suits. But he began to arrive with a diver and slippers and preferred to mix with the players to see them up close, so that they better understand his concepts by stopping the plays. It is no coincidence that in his book he speaks of “Illustrated Soccer” as a way of applying scientific methods in the game. He talked about the diet of the players and even worried about the state of the grass long before Marcelo Bielsa or Marcelo Gallardo did. He also pointed out the importance of rallies before games.
A change of owner in the club was creating friction that generated that Weisz preferred to leave Inter just a year after the Scudetto, looking for other destinations.
He then directed the Bari and to Novara until he finally reached the Bologna in 1935 and settled there together with his family. It was an ideal place for him, because of the tranquility and because it allowed him, due to his passion, to discuss football in bars. The club was definitely on the rise after the success it had had in the 20s and then it was acquired by the businessman Renato Dall’Ara, with whom Weisz made an immediate friendship and a fruitful working relationship, until he converted the group with enough strength to to challenge Juventus, who had dominated Italian football for the past five years.
Already with the experience of Inter. He paid particular attention to the players’ diet and the playing field at the Littorale, the club’s former stadium, to the extent that Weisz arranged for a team of outfielders to assemble to make sure the grass was of adequate length.
He ended up making two sensational campaigns with the 1936 and 1937 scudettos, although the second he shared with a European title that is considered a predecessor of the Champions Cup, during the Universal Exhibition in Paris, in which he first beat Sochaux, then to Slavia Prague, and in the final 4-1 to Chelsea, which ended the idea of unbeaten by the English teams.
After this resounding success, the Italian and European press praised him in such a way that one medium published that “a team that would make the world tremble” had been born and the weekly magazine “The Illustrated Football”Declared it “The magician”.
However, despite being considered the best coach in Europe, everything began to fall in September 1938 with the promulgation of the Racial Laws of 1938, which imitated those of Nüremberg with which Mussolini wanted to get in tune with Adolf Hitler . Weisz entered danger to the point that not even the recognition he had in the environment seemed to save him.
He was dismissed as coach of Bologna and a few days later he fled Italy with his wife Elena and their children Roberto and Clara to Paris (he was 45 years old), but they were not comfortable and they moved back to Dordrecht, Holland, more friendly for the Jews. He was offered a job as a manager and became an idol saving the team from relegation in the first season and reaching fifth place in the next.
But in May 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and banned Jews from schools, shops, bars and public transport. The Weisz were surviving thanks to the help of the president of the Dordrecht until in August 1942 they were captured by the Gestapo after a tip from a Dutch collaborator. The first destination was the Westerbork concentration camp, the same as Anna Frank. Then they were transferred to Posel (Poland), although only Arpad remained, who was able to cut through his physical build to work, but his wife and children were put on another train and he no longer heard from them. The three died on October 5, 1942 in the gas chamber in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp, where the DT would arrive months later after going through the hell of Cosel..
In Auschwitz, more than a million Jews had already been murdered before him, and died of hunger and cold, in very poor condition, on January 31, 1944, just a year before the Soviets liberated the concentration camp.
The Weisz story had practically disappeared with the renewal of fans. Nobody wanted to remember him, not even in the football environment until the journalist Mateo Marani rediscovered him in 2007 with his book “From the Scudetto to Auschwitz” and It was from there that Bologna decided to dedicate a plaque to him at their Renato Dall’Ara stadium, which bears the name of that leader friend of Weisz, while Inter discovered another plaque in San Siro, and there is another in the Novara stadium and in Bari, where there is also a street with his name near the field.
Inter and Bologna came to wear commemorative shirts on several occasions and they have already raised that in each preseason, the two teams will face each other for an “Arpad Weisz” trophy.
In January 2020, Chelsea built a mural designed by Solomon Souza on the west side of their Stamford Bridge stadium. With the inscription “Say no to anti-Semitism”, a campaign financed by the president of the club, Román Abramovich. In that mural appear mentions of footballers like Weisz and Julius Hirsch, murdered in concentration camps. And Ron Jones, a prisoner of war known as “The Auschwitz Archer.”
Due to its good practice against anti-Semitism, Bologna was selected to collaborate in the project “Changing the Chants” of the European Union and in which the Anne Frank House participates. “Fare Network” and the clubs Borussia Dortmund and Feyenoord with the idea of sensitizing fans about chants in football with educational methods to prevent racism and anti-Semitism.
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