Monday, February 1, 2010

‘Mittel Europa’ next, always hard to place. Certainly not perceived equal to France, especially at club level, but one never knew for certain – old memories of years gone still affected evaluations, at least before the referee started a match. After all, ‘Mittel Europa’ was the big European football when Austria had the Wunderteam. Long, long ago… the slump started after the end of the Second World War and by the 1970s Austrian football was in deep crisis and not only in strictly sporting terms. Financial difficulties, nothing new in the Alps, where football was never the most popular sport, increased. The number of paying spectators shrunk. Stars did not appear; clubs called it a day. Mergers were so many, it is difficult today to figure out who was who: the major difficulties are these – clubs often moved geographically from one city to another; mergers changed names, but later fell apart, followed by new mergers; apparently business was allowed not merely to sponsor clubs, but actually to merge with the clubs, leading to the inclusion of the sponsor in newest club’s name. When the sponsor withdrew, the club changed its name once again. But in the same time not every club merged with business sponsors, so the league was strangely mixed, and just to top the confusing list of peculiarities – league tables vastly differ: some use one kind of names, others – fully scripted names, third – abbreviations. Go figure… A crisis so deep lead to reforms – in the Austrian case, tighter financial requirements and reduced league after 1973-74 season. But in the summer of 1973 it was not only the old 16-team league – it was even increased to 17 teams for the next season. Meantime Swarovski-Wacker (Innsbruck) triumphed with third consecutive title, crowned with the cup as well – a double.

Top, left to right: Gebhardt –coach, Breuer, Gombasch, Skocik, Peter Koncilia, Rinker, Jara, Hattenberger, Kriess.
Bottom: Voggenberger, Eigenstiller, Rebele, Schatz, Friedl Koncilia, Lercher, Flindt-Bjerg, Kordesch.
Good enough for a double and additionally Robert Breuer was the top scorer of the season with 22 goals, but… this team looks more impressive from the distance of time. That is because entirely unknown players, Friedl Koncilia and Kurt Jara would become quite famous by the end of the 1970s. In 1973 it was still team depending on Austrian established, some regular national players – Skocik, Hattenbereger, some reliable names – the West German scorer Breuer, Kordesch, Gombasch, some hopefuls – Peter Koncilia (listed on the original photo old-fashioned way – Koncilia II), two more foreigners, noticeable only because they were foreigners – the West German journeyman Hans Rebele ( 2 caps for West Germany) and the Dane Ove Flindt-Bjerg. And soon enough most noticeable players moved away – beginning with Kurt Jara, who joined Valencia (Spain) immediately after collecting title and cup in 1973. But the most interesting feature of the team is the inscription ‘Swarovski’ on their shirts. Was it an advertisement or was it the club name? Then and now Swarovski is world-wide known firm, producing and selling many things around the world. Sponsors in 1973 of the club? Yes, but… at that time UEFA did not permit shirt adds in the European club tournaments, yet the Austrians played with exactly this inscription their two matches in the European Champions Cup. So it was the club name? Then what was the name of the club? In Austrian statistics it is usually listed as SSW-Wacker. In Europe at that time it was listed as Swarovski-Wacker. On the shirts ‘Wacker’ is missing.

Well… in 1971 FC Wacker (Innsbruck) merged with WSG Swarowski of nearby city Wattens. ‘Swarowski’ appears in the name of the original club because it was allowed by Austrian regulations – an infusion of the sponsor in the club. There were other clubs with similar official names already and there will be much more by the end of the 1970s. Anyway, the new merger was to be called FC Tirol (Innsbruck) – curiously enough, only the professional team, whereas youth teams were to remain separated and playing under the old names. Other Tyrolean club objected to this name and the new club was ordered by the Austrian Federation to change it – the new name produced was SG Swarowski-Wattens-Wacker (Inssbruck), abbreviated to SSW Wacker. Hence, ‘Swarowski’ remained in the official name of the club, eventually justifying the inscription on the shirts. Very likely this was the argument presented to UEFA, although nobody ever called the club ‘Swarovski’. Sneaky Austrians… Bayer (Leverkusen, West Germany) and PSV Eindhoven (Holland) were also firm clubs – and from foundation date – yet, they were not allowed to play with such inscriptions, although much more justified than the Austrians. The Aspirins were hardly a concern yet – they did not appear in the European clubs before the 1980s, but the club founded by and belonging to Phillips were regular participants in the European club tournaments – and played with plain shirts. At the end, Swarovski hardly benefited by the clever exposure – in the fall of 1973 they met CSKA (Sofia) and were promptly eliminated in the first round of the European Champions Cup. Bulgaria was not exactly the place to peddle merchandise at that time, inscriptions or no inscriptions.