Stephen I. Ternyik


The Guttman Bela Playmaking:
- goal for a life-


Irta: Stephen I. Ternyik
Maganvallalkozo/tudos (1985 ota)


Life writing is gaining slowly methodical momentum in empirical social science and thought; life history is, of course, qualitative research (e.g. critical life events) and with today's computer powers the quantification of individual and group experiences can be better matched with the general tendencies or trends in a given human society. A human biography is simply history without theory and shows how individuals and small groups do and did cope with extra-ordinary life events and circumstances. The decisive social factor is the so called Thomas theorem that the interpretation or definition of a condition influences the conditioning i.e. human action moves from accessible knowledge (predictability) of a situation towards behavioral wisdom (outcome) and this resembles surely not an academic discourse, but an open guess to apply and mix method, tactics and strategy in the pilgrimage of life. Ayfo kochi? From where do we receive the strength or power in us to live ‘reality' successful, in terms of physical survival, psychological well-being and life refinement?

Before we can immerse into the social psychology-in-depth of the biographical emergence of Guttmann Bela (1899-1981), let us first do our homework of statistical significances, concerning his sporting career. Bela Guttmann (BG) played active football (soccer) in 12 very different locations, such as Budapest, Vienna, Brooklyn/NY, Enschede/NL, Bucharest, Padova, Trient, Milan, Penerol/UY, Sao Paolo, Porto, and Lisbon; this covers the temporal period from 1917-1933 and 12 different soccer teams. From 1933-1974, he managed 24 different teams and the statistical means is about 2 football seasons, because we have to subtract the WW2 period. With Hakoah Vienna, BG became Austrian Champion (1925) and in 1923 he was a member of the Hakoah team that defeated (5:0) West Ham United (the English cup-finalist) at home, i.e. this was the first football team from the continent to win on the British Isles. His greatest success as a manager (coach) happened with Benfica Lisbon, winning the European Champions League (1961; 1962). The famous Guttman curse on Benfica occurred thereafter; BG discovered famous Eusebio and was in very close contact or well connected to the top Hungarian football in the 1950s of the so called Magical Magyars, in international soccer jargon. With Izidor Kürschner/Szücs (1885-1941) and afterwards Gyula Mandi (1899-1969; consultant to the Israeli national team, 1959-1964), the role of BG as a soccer pioneer and missionary was pivotal in making Brasilia (where his cousin and football fan Imre had become a successful textile entrepreneur) a football world power. It is no exaggeration to claim that Guttmann Bela was one of the first professional football players in the world and among the best paid training managers (coaches) in Europe and on the globe, i.e. an avant-garde sportsman in the professional globalization of football (soccer) and a real globe-trotter in the art of playmaking. While playing soccer in the US (1926¬1932), BG bought stakes in a speakeasy entertainment business, but his financial investment was crashed by the world economic events of 1929/1930 which eventually caused him to return to Europe.

The Guttmann family moved from the trans-Carpathian region into the vibrant industrial centers in the south- east of Budapest (Köbanya/Kispest); both parents, Abraham and Eszter, were born in Galicia and climbed up the social ladder from technical service jobs to the level of diploma teachers in dancing. BG received also his diploma as a teacher of classical dance at the age of 16, after the typical formal schooling of 8 years.
This was a liberal and Bohemian atmosphere and the attachment to Judaism was definitely more ethno- cultural than by religious practice, in terms of every-day life. Factually, Bela became a professional footballer at the age of 18 (with Törekves, 1917-1919 and MTK, 1919-1921) and his move (1922) to Hakoah Vienna, the avant-garde Jewish club, was a logical one: Austria had introduced the first professional football league on the continent, and it was therefore legal to receive a payment (income) for playing; this engagement with the all-Jewish Hakoah also brought him into the United States, because Hakoah did a lot of international football touring missions, for commercial and cultural purposes. In any case, BG became somehow attached to Vienna, notably for its salon culture and philosophy, and he is also buried there (Central Cemetery/New Jewish Section). With Hakoah, he also got some special mental training at degree level in psychology, most probably the early fundament of his coaching career.

The extended Guttman family (parents, grandparents, relatives) viewed the football ambition, certain leisure time gambling behaviors and the non-Jewish girl-friend Mariann of BG with a bad eye, except for his cousin Imre who was also a fan of this emerging sport and he also befriended theunconventional partnership. When asked in journalistic interviews about his survival in the period from 1939-1945, Bela always responded politely that G-d had helped him. His parents, grandparents, elder brother, and almost all relatives (except cousin Imre) perished in the Shoah; his grandfather was even beaten to death in Budapest, the death of his brother is recorded in Auschwitz (1945). However, Mariann was the sister of Ocskay Laszlo (1893-1966), a Hungarian military official from a long-standing family tradition, who engaged into secret Jewish rescue, co-operating with the growing resistance forces against genocidal action and foreign occupation; at the end of the war, even Raoul Wallenberg did hide in one of his cellar concealments. In any case, Mariann did hide BG and they ‘married' in 1942, staying 25 years together.

Putting the key pieces of the BG puzzle together, the dynamic interplay of biography and society as well as time and chance becomes visible. Behind the many legends about Guttmann Bela, his curses, blessings and coincidences, we can see the psychological emergence of a special strength that was molded by a paradox of physical exercise, life gambling and mental strategy, surely rooted in the existential belief of an eternal upper force. Cricket may be a game in England, on the continent life seems to be game, as famous Hungarian author George Mikes stated many times. The enigma of BG, as official sportsman and private human being, is the deep psychology of the survivor who decided to go on, in the best case, from strength to strength; this seems to be the best remedy to overcome grief, traumas and the fear of the re-occurrence. Not every-body is able to walk that road, to heal the wounds and recover; physical training, real connectedness to a group of people and the deep immersion into a beloved topic seem to be the ideal combination of healing forces for the human soul and body. Last year (2014), Benfica Lisbon unveiled a bronze statue of BG at its football stadium: Will the Guttmann curse be lifted? Only Bela can decide; can the curse be revoked? It is my advice that the dear reader shall study the spiritual physics of curses and the sporting results of Benfica in the coming cup finals, to arrive at a real world conclusion: 47 years are left for this learning experience.


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