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February of 1933: Mario Brun talks to Hugo Meisl

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-01-18 19:54:54


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Hugo Meisl, a football dictator
Mario Brun | 21/02/1933

He deserves his success. Nobody disputes it. It is enough to have seen him once to be convinced of his multiple talents, his common sense, his intelligence.
He is a remarkable men's trainer, an undisputed leader. He only has to say a word to make himself obeyed. The other day, at the Parc des Princes, Sindelar having wanted to extend his training by a few minutes, Hugo Meisl gently remarked to him: “Jetz ist genung, Sindelar! (Now that's enough, Sindelar!). And the greatest centre-forward in Europe went, head bowed, towards the locker room.
He is considered the man who knows football best in Europe. To tell the truth, he has loved this sport with passion for 35 years already...
"It's beautiful, the football... it's beautiful, the football..." he kept repeating as his team finished their training in the magnificent setting of the Parc des Princes at dusk. Shortly after, he told me:
Meisl: We want to win first... And when we have the game in hand, we have only one concern: to play a good game.
* * *
During a lunch where he had kindly invited me, I asked him what lessons he had learned from this famous Chelsea match, which was a milestone in the history of football. I knew he was off-putting during the interview. He was not in the least. We were, it is true, tasting an excellent Viennese schnitzel. He wanted to tell me:
Meisl: We had already met England, in 1930, in Vienna. We then drew: 0 to 0. On December 7, in London, we were narrowly beaten. We wrote that we still won the game. I believe.
» Yet when I left for England, I fought with all my might those who believed in our success, even our brave manager Jimmy Hogan, who is however the most apt man to judge European football. Certainly, I had confidence in our way. I knew she — England — was the best; but I was afraid that it would be annihilated by the strong manner of the Islanders. These people have too much experience, too much acquired. I told myself not to impose themselves at home brutally, as they did against Spain. They must dominate, thanks to their profession, and in fact, if we cannot use our true means, if we are obliged to adapt, we are lost. Nothing came of it, fortunately!
» Fortunately, because, you see, we don't like defensive play. We are not made to defend ourselves. Nor are we inclined to conform to rules that are too classic and monotonous. Our game, if you will, is romantic. It gives in to constant inspiration. Its character is brilliant, spectacular, refined. It is only worth the mentality that everyone imprints on it. It is always changing, always varied. The way to bring a goal is never the same. It is not dictated by an immutable rule of automatic passes and markdowns, as with the English. The English don't play smart...
— They could play, somehow, with their eyes closed!
Meisl: That's right. They are remarkable technicians, impeccable workers, incomparable perhaps. But they don't think. They are objective without finesse. We seek to reach the goal too! But in the most elegant way. I hope you understand me and that you do not see in my statements a simple fatuity. It is our temperament that requires this, the same that earned us a Schubert, a Mozart. What further explanation would I give you to translate my thought? Football is just a theme for the English. For us, it is also a theme; but a theme on which we embroider. And it's because at Chelsea we were able to embroider, it's because our men were able to practice their game and weren't forced to submit to adverse law, that we were able to withdraw from the battle with the honors.
» Now I am convinced that our system is the best. Note that it can be held in check; we will be beaten. But we will always be well ranked; we will never be the last. After several years of work, we finally have a good method. A method that requires those who use it to be perfect artists.
— What tactics did you recommend to your men so that they could avoid the embrace of the English, and thus use their true means?
Meisl: As you have surely noticed, we have 'widened' our game as much as possible. So Goodall or Blenkinsop were to attack Vogl or Zischek. As a result, I said to Smistik, our centre-half: “Throw Vogl as often as you can very far on the wing”. Vogl’s mission then was to draw Goodall very close to him. And before he was loaded by him, he had to get rid of the ball in a hurry and direct it to the center where I was sure my triplet would be able to use it properly.
» Usually, it is not the same with us. Our wingers, thrown, rush, dribble, fall back, approach the closest to the goals, and if they have not materialized themselves, try to provide their insiders or the centre-forward before the ball in a situation so conducive that they only have to shoot victoriously. They prepare all the work...
» England wingers, on the contrary, run and cross automatically. Too bad if there is no one to receive their ball. They don't worry about anything; they just know there has to be someone in the middle to use their pass. Believe me, it's too routine. The English footballer owes all his superiority first to his physical strength, then to his heredity, but not to the continuous improvements of his system, like us.
» That's why I believe that our teams, if they participated in the English championship, would not play a prominent role. The game of the English championship is too hard.
— And in the World Championship?
Meisl: Austria would not necessarily hold the role we believe for the same reasons. The brutal elimination, by k. o., is not significant! I am not at all a supporter of the World Championship!
After a moment of reflection, Hugo Meisl adds:
Meisl: Our system undoubtedly involves more risks, but it is indisputably more artistic. My eleven men play with intuition; that alone matters to me.
— You must be satisfied with them?
Meisl: After the match at Stamford Bridge, the famous Arsenal inside right, Jack, with whom I am very good friends, said to me: "Your team is great, Mr Hugo Meisl". But I am never satisfied. No one saw me applauding my men. I have always praised them when appropriate. But always I asked them for more. Because we still have to make a lot of progress and we can.
— What is your definitive opinion of English footballers?
We can always make a lot of use of the English. But they are no longer the world's leading footballers in team play. I believe, however, that if they changed their method, if they applied themselves as they did before the war, if they introduced a more reasoned science into their game, they would easily be the first players in the world again. Because, despite everything, they retain players, supremely gifted individuals. Men like Jack, James, Blenkinsop are incomparable.
* * *
On Sunday Evening, after France-Austria, I also asked him what he thinks of the French game.
Meisl: The French game? Your players have the flame, the brio, but you still have to educate them, teach them how to build. It would be enough for their team to have five or six good technicians for it to rise to the level of all the others. France has its place to hold in continental football...
» Besides, at Stamford Bridge we played a little for France. We have tried to represent the Continent as well as possible.
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