Our world today is full of mysteries. Many of such include the belief in the supernatural, efficacy of curses, existence of paranormal beings and so on. Football, our most loved sport is not out of the picture in terms of superstition. Right from the very beginning the sport has had cases of cursed teams, cursed Jersey numbers and so on. Many would write off most of such events as coincidence but some special cases would make one think twice about this. One of such cases is the curse laid upon Benfica by their iconic coach Béla Guttmann.
The famous club manager Béla Guttmann was born on the 27th of January, 1899 to two dance teachers in Budapest, Hungary. At the age of 16, following his parents footsteps he went on to become a trained dance instructor and also bagged a psychology degree in Austria.
In the early 1920s, Guttmann joined MTK Hungarian FC climbing up the ladders to become a key player. He played as a center half winning the Hungarian league back to back in 1920 and 1921. Being a Jew, Guttmann was forced to move to Vienna to escape the massacre of Jews by the Hungarian nationalist government in 1922. He soon joined SC Hakoah where he played for over 4 years winning the Austrian league in 1925. Following a tour to the US in 1926, he moved to the New York Giants football club which he left in 1929 after the club was suspended. He later joined the New York Hakoah winning the US Open Cup together with most of his former teammates. He continued giving out dance lessons and engaged in stock market investments nearly losing a lot of money in the process.
Guttmann also represented his country six times. He scored in a 3-0 win against Germany which was his first game . During the 1924 Olympics, he complained about the management of the Hungarian national team and when his views were not considered, he hung dead rats on the doors of the officials.
In 1932, he returned to Austria where he began his coaching career. From 1933 to 1974, he coached over 24 teams winning two UEFA champions league cups. Following the Nazi invasion of Hungary in 1944, Guttmann was sent to a concentration camp with many other Hungarian Jews. He survived months of torture during the holocaust and escaped in December, 1944. His family was murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp where he was due to be transferred shortly before his escape. After the war, he continued his coaching career and coached the national teams of seven countries (Italy, Hungary, Brazil, Portugal, Uruguay, Holland and Austria).
In 1958, he began the most successful part of his career. He took charge at FC Porto and led the club to 3 Portuguese league trophies. He then moved to Benfica and won the 1960 and 1961 league cups. In the 1961 UEFA champions league finals, his Benfica team beat Spanish champions FC Barcelona 3-2. They later went on to defend the title against Spanish giants Real Madrid with a 5-3 win in 1962.
After the 1962 win , he approached the club’s board of directors asking for a modest increase in his pay. His request was turned down in spite of his recent achievements with the club. He decided to leave Benfica but not without placing a curse on the club stating ”Never in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions again’’. They must have dismissed the statement as just blabbering from a furious coach but there seemed to be more about the curse than meets the eye. In 1963, Benfica reached the finals but lost to AC Milan. In 65, they lost again to Inter Milan. After two more losses in 68 and 83, speculations began to arise that truly the club was cursed. In 1988, they lost again confirming the potency of the curse. After reaching the finals in 1990, the great Eusebio visited the grave of Guttmann to pray that the curse be lifted but to no avail. They still lost again and went on to lose in the 2013 and 2014 UEFA Europa League finals. Maybe we will have to wait until later in the 2060s before we might be able to see Benfica lift the European trophy again.



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