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Vittorio Pozzo, 1937: Hugo Meisl
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-05-18 16:51:41
Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
— Vittorio Pozzo | 18/02/1937 —
Hugo Meisl is no more. And he disappeared, as if carried away by a gust of wind. The heart, that heart that had known so many shocks and emotions, couldn't handle them. About three years ago, shortly before the world championship, he had suffered a serious illness: he had come out with a shattered body, with the impossibility of curing certain ailments so as not to aggravate others, with the always possibility of sudden relapses. Last year it had improved somewhat, but in Paris, three weeks ago, at the France-Austria meeting, it had gotten worse again. More than the yellowish, parchment-like wax that was his habit, he denoted his internal agitation, his nervousness: on the field, in the rain, he squirmed, he cursed, he got angry with his players. He had lost line.
He had suffered another much more serious illness thirty or forty years earlier, an illness from which he had never recovered, which had entered his blood, his brain, his body, taking over everything and dominating everything: the "virus" modern game of football. He had not dedicated a few hours a week to this passion of his, as the vulgar does; he had sacrificed everything, he had dedicated his entire existence.
His first football love had been for the Viennese team which, in the pre-war period, bore the name of «Wiener Amateure Sportverein». In it he had played some time; indeed, a brother of his had served in his ranks, Willy, who reached the honors of the national shirt, and who is currently a valiant journalist in London. Then he moved on to the field of refereeing. From this he had risen to fame as «Verbandskapitán», as Technical Commissioner of the Federation, as Captain of the Austrian national team. For more than twenty-five years he had held the position heavy with burdens and responsibilities.
Precisely in the role of Austrian "Captain", we had known him personally in Stockholm, in 1912, at the Olympic Games. On that occasion, he had in fact refereed the match that saw Italy eliminated from the football tournament, the match against Finland, at the Rosunda stadium. The first meeting between Italian and Austrian teams was then combined with him; thanks to his intervention, the following year - to the alarm of the constituted authorities, who saw in the attempt who knows what danger of accidents or conflagrations - precisely the "Wiener Amateure" had descended into Turin, which after the war was to take the name of "Austria". The first Italy-Austria meeting had been arranged with him, which took place in Genoa shortly after.
His passion for football had led him to abandon his profession as a bank official at a certain point, and to devote his entire activity to the Austrian Federation, combining the duties of coach with those of general secretary. For years the more he had lived only the life of football, the more he only dealt with the problems of big sport. All the joys and all the pains, all the satisfactions and all the bitternesses, all the honors and all the burdens that sport can give to a man, he had had them, winning, losing, battling in all the countries of Europe.
The most ingenious of his creations was the so-called Miracle Squad.
Coming from a family originally from Bohemia. Meisl had all the warm passion of the born sportsman, the profound competence of the technician, the dense diplomatic skills of the Viennese. After so many years of experience, he still rejoiced in the successes, and suffered from the failures of his team, like a child. Polyglot, intelligent, versatile, he did not limit his activity to the technical and organizational problems of the game, he also dealt with the politics of the game itself; he did not stop at the indispensable study and the necessary knowledge of the men with whom he had to live, he fought with them. And so he had accumulated friends and enemies in abundance, the latter especially in his own home.
An outspoken enthusiast, he had given everything to sport, asking for compensation, towards the last few years, only a salary to live on. He liked to say, in moments of confidence, that he was "a bad salesman of his own abilities."
With Meisl disappears a pioneer, a technician, a team commander, one of the dominant figures of world football. The whole history of European football is linked to his name. Sporting Italy, which so often had him close, will never forget him. Those who fought against him on the playing fields in defense of the colors of Italy, find themselves moved by the news of the sudden departure of the defender of the colors of Austria, stand "at attention" in front of the disappearing gladiator.
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