About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #12 - Ergi Erbstein

World War Two and its aftermath led to an incredible movement of people around Europe as borders were drawn and redrawn. The next three articles in this series will focus on three men who despite being uprooted from their home, ended up having a lasting impact in the country where they ended up.
My first subject is Ergi Erbstein, a Hungarian Jew who created Il Grande Torino side which tragically perished in the Superga air disaster. Born in 1898, Erbstein was a Hungarian army officer in World War One who spent most of his playing career with Budapesti AK but also had short spells in Italy and the USA. Following retirement in 1928 he returned to Italy as a manager of several clubs including Bari and Lucchese before arriving at Torino. His time in Turin was cut short by World War Two but he returned post war and alongside Leslie Lievesley with unprecedented success.
He first came to prominence whilst at Lucchese in the mid 1930s, taking the club from the regional leagues to Serie A and a still best ever finish of seventh. His success was due to a holistic approach to management which encompassed scouting, tactics, technical skill, physical fitness and motivation.
This led to a move to Torino in 1938 but Mussolini’s race laws led to his decision to leave Italy, and after being stopped by the SS he was deported with to Hungary where Jews faced similar oppression to that in Nazi Germany. Inevitably Erbstein ended up in a concentration camp but along with Bela Guttman (MWMMF #13), he escaped by jumping from a train whilst being transported.
Following the end of the war Erbstein returned to Torino to finish what he had started. His football philosophy utilised a scouting network ensuring the opposition were thoroughly analysed and players signed to suit his style of play which evolved from swift counter attacking using long diagonal balls to crisp short passing.
With ten Torino players starting for Italy in, appropriately, a match against Hungary, his team were at the peak of their powers when he took them to Benfica for a friendly in the spring of 1949.

Tragically the plane crashed against the Superga cliff-side monastery on its return flight killing Erbstein, Lievesley and the squad. Only able to field a youth team for their remaining league fixtures, Torino’s opponents did likewise and they won a fifth consecutive Scudetto at the end of the season, a fitting tribute to Erbstein and his groundbreaking team.
You can read about his amazing life in more detail in the recently published Erbstein: football's forgotten pioneer by Dominic Bliss which is available from www.theblizzard.co.uk

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