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28/01/1937: Pefferkorn talks to Hugo Meisl

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-01-14 21:11:00

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
Austrian football dictator
Maurice Pefferkorn | 28/01/1937

Here we are in the presence of a dictator!
It is hard to believe when, from chair to chair, in a hotel hall, you converse with M. Hugo Meisl, who maintains an eternal cigarette. He is conciliatory in his words, nuanced in his opinions, considerate in his manners, flattering in his assessments. Of our language, which he speaks with ease, he knows subtleties which make us happy. He likes to use it as an extra politeness towards his interlocutors.
And yet this face is not that of a salon man. The features are tormented and changing. Suddenly, the laugh becomes a grin. Suddenly, a flash flashed from his gaze. To hammer out a pithy phrase, the jaw contracts. The gesture, which was enveloping, is transformed and frozen by the authoritarian virtue of the clenching fist. And everything relaxes as if by magic.
* *
It is therefore an extremely diverse character, and, by that very fact, attractive, this Hugo Meisl who personifies all of Austrian football, who represents it in all its forms, who makes himself both the apostle, the defender and the diplomat.
He is a man of about 55 years old, robust, even a little massive and who, a few years ago, managed to emerge victorious from a cruel illness which confined him to a painful retirement for more than a year.
Hugo Meisl is a former high-class player who was an Austrian international full-back. Austrian international, it is indeed a reference of the first order and which dispenses with long comments. When he left the player's jersey, it was to put on the referee's jacket. There again he became an international, so that when he entered the political and administrative life of football, he already bore a European name. He entered the career preceded by a universal reputation.
Soon he became the General Secretary of the Austrian Federation. But he did not abandon the activity of the coach for that, because he was able to keep at the same time a title which is particularly precious to him, that of sole commissioner of Austrian football, coach, trainer, animator of the national team which he led to the greatest glory and that he contributed, in large part, to the nickname of the Wunderteam, the marvelous team.
* *
Prophet in his country, Hugo Meisl had however to suffer in 1934 the effects of a cabal which seemed to shake his prestige for a moment. It was the time of the World Cup, disputed, this year, in Italy, as we know. The Wunderteam, a little tired, saturated with glory, weary of general admiration, showed a very marked decline and did not play, in this grandiose international competition, the role that was expected.
Then jealousies arose which raised very strong offensives against Hugo Meisl. As much as it had been praise; as much as it was fought. They attacked him in his private life. Politics became entangled. His incontestable competence was disputed. Hugo Meisl stood up with anger, obstinacy, with a passionate love of wrestling which ensured him victory. Today, he reduced the opposition. He once again became the undisputed master of Austrian football.
* *
As he was, of course, in Paris last Sunday with his team, I took pleasure in chatting for an hour with him, as I never fail to do whenever, for more than fifteen years, I have opportunity.
Meisl: France is the European country in which football is most faithfully inspired by the path traced by England. Your country has adopted the same wise organization as Great Britain. The conquest of the public continues at home the same progress as in England. And, when the technique of your game will be as sure as it is, for example, with us, football will be in France as gloriously king as it is in Great Britain.
— Austria will no doubt take part in the World Cup?
Meisl: That is absolutely certain. We cannot do otherwise.
It seemed to me that there was a restriction in this assertion. This did not surprise me otherwise, because Hugo Meisl is an adversary of the events which are disputed according to the cup formula, which he calls the knock-out formula.
Meisl: The cup formula is not in keeping with the Austrian way. We don't like to take our chances in a single game. Our qualities are regularity and consistency. So we want to be judged on a set.
» These are the principles that I defended during the creation of the Central European Cup and the International Cup and which were accepted by Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Italy and Switzerland. I regret that they are not those of the World Cup. But this is still not a reason for Austria to abstain. Besides, no one will abstain. And the French Federation will win, on this occasion, a big and resounding success. I sincerely hope that the French team will also receive the greatest honors.