Folklores and superstitions are a part and parcel of football just like any other sports. With a sports driven so much with emotions, despair, joy, sorrow, attachment and all sorts of conceivable state of mind and with stakes so high, it’s no wonder that players and mob alike find either solace or astonishment amidst various superstitious stories. Today we shall discuss one of the most fabled saga of footballing folklore, the alleged curse of Bela Guttman on Benifica.
Bela Guttman was a Hungarian player and manager. A legendary manager in the footballing annals, he is credited with the introduction of the 4-2-4 in Latin America which the Brazilian side so whole heartedly adopted to conquer footballing stage in the coming decades. He managed top class teams including teams like AC Milan, Sao Paolo, Porto, Benifica and Penarol. He was a serial winner as well as a man marked with controversy and he had a habit of winning wherever he went and he left AC Milan when they were at the top of the table. He won back to back European cups with Benifica and multiple other league titles with various top clubs he managed .He never stayed at a club more than two years and was credited with saying that the third year of managerial career was fatal. Manchester United fans may start to notice similarities with their recent manager sacked a few days ago and rightly so, since many people say that he was the Jose Mourinho of his times. He is also the man responsible for bringing Eusebio to Benifica. What then happened that he allegedly cursed Benifica and how exactly it transpired is the question.
As mentioned earlier, Guttman was a serial winner as well as a controversial man. He did not leave any chance to put forth his specific demands and after walking out of AC Milan at top of the league, even included a clause in his next contract barring clubs to fire him whilst at top of the table. When he guided Benifica to their consecutive European Cup in 1962 after defeating Real Madrid, he immediately asked for a pay rise. When he was declined, he resigned immediately and is said to have allegedly cursed Benifica saying, “Not in a hundred years from now on will Benifica be European Champions”. In the next 55 years Benifica have reached eight European finals, five European Cup and three Uefa Cup, but have lost all, with the latest in line being their loss to Sevilla in Europa League finals in 2014. In their European Cup final in 1990 which was staged in Vienna, the City where Guttman is buried, Eusebio went to pray at his grave to release Benifica from the curse, to no avail as evident. The misery of Benifica goes on with each final loss and with it increases the legend of the curse of Guttman, perhaps the most fabled folklore of football history.