Béla Guttmann with the Benfica logo |

Hungarian curse to loom over Benfica

May 16, 2013

Portuguese soccer club SL Benfica lost the Europa League final this Wednesday night to English side FC Chelsea and the superstitious believe this loss – and the six defeats in European cup finals before – is due to a curse by legendary Hungarian coach Béla Guttmann.

Budapest-born Guttmann pursued a career as a footballer in the 1920s that included six caps with the Hungarian national side. As a coach, he had his first serious success, winning the Hungarian League with Újpest FC in the season right before World War II (and in the one right after it) and the Mitropa Cup (1939).

Later, he helped Sao Paulo to a State Championship title (1957) in Brazil. The following year, he moved to Portugal where he won the league title in his first season with FC Porto. Another year later, he began coaching Porto’s arch rivals SL Benfica that he steered to two league and a cup titles, and most of all, winning the European Champions Cup twice, beating FC Barcelona (in 1961) and Real Madrid (in 1962, despite Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskás scoring three goals for Real).

After the 1962 final, Guttmann asked for a pay rise from the club, but, despite the never-seen success, he was turned down. He left Benfica and he is said to have cursed the club, declaring that "Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever win a European Cup".

The curse seems to have ‘worked’, so far. Despite being finalists on seven occasions – 1963, 1965, 1968, 1983, 1988, 1990 and on the latest occasion, this week – the Portuguese club has never since won any European title. Before the 1990 final, which was played in Vienna, Austria, where Guttmann was buried, the legendary Benfica player (1960-75), Eusébio, even prayed unsuccessfully at his grave and asked for the curse to be broken.


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