🇦🇹 AUSTRIA 🇦🇹
The Austrian Championship was founded in 1911. An Austrian championship that was soon dominated by teams from the capital, starting with Rapid Vienna and its runner-up and also its biggest rival, Austria Vienna. Today, Red Bull Salzburg has moved into the upper echelons of the table. The club has become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, club in the country.
The Austrian championship is played in two phases. The twelve best Austrian teams meet twice in the first phase. At the end of this phase, the twelve teams are divided into two groups. The first six teams compete for the title and the last six teams for the relegation group.
The teams meet again twice. Once the first phase is over, the top six play a mini championship, taking half of the points gained in the first phase, and determine the champion and the qualifying places for the European competitions. The last six play another mini championship for relegation. The first in this relegation championship retains a chance to qualify for the Europa League by taking part in the “play offs”. It will challenge the unqualified club from the other mini championship. Finally, the last of the relegation championship is relegated to the second division.
Austrian football has a rich history. The sport was started in 1890 by English gardeners who worked for the Rothschilds, a banking family in Vienna. The gardeners kicked a leather ball in their spare time and the sport soon became popular. In 1894, the first clubs in the capital were founded: Rapid Vienna and Austria Vienna.
The Austrian Football Association (ÖFB) was founded in 1904. It became a member of world football’s governing body, FIFA, in 1905.
Football became professional in the first two divisions in 1924. In the years that followed, Austrian football held a prominent place on the world stage. Between 1930 and 1933, the legendary “Wunderteam”, with striker Matthias Sindelar and coach Hugo Meisl, went 16 matches unbeaten. Austrian football enjoyed another golden age between 1950 and 1954: international stars such as Ernst Ocwirk, Gerhard Hanappi and Ernst Happel made a name for themselves.
Austria qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals seven times, with their best performances coming in 1954 (third place) and 1934 (fourth).
The Austrians made an early name for themselves on the international scene at club level. The first foreign transfer took place in 1905, when goalkeeper Karl Pekarna left Vienna for Scottish side Rangers FC. According to statistics, in 1938, 62 Austrian professional footballers were playing in France. Some of them, like Heini Hiltl, Gustl Jordan and Rudi Hiden, obtained French citizenship and went on to represent France. Ernst Happel also played for France and was part of the FIFA world team that drew with England in 1953.
Happel had a stellar coaching career, winning 17 international and domestic titles, including the European Champion Clubs’ Cup and the European/South European Cup with Feyenoord (1970) and the Champions Cup with Hamburger SV (1983). On the world stage, Happel led the Netherlands to the World Cup in Argentina in 1978. The country’s national stadium in Vienna, the venue for the UEFA EURO 2008 final, was named in his honour.
Hans Krankl was the Austrian football hero of the 1970s. A formidable striker, Krankl built a reputation outside his native country and helped FC Barcelona lift the 1978/79 European Cup Winners’ Cup. The previous year, Krankl won the Golden Boot given to Europe’s top scorer, scoring 41 goals. His national team-mate Herbert Prohaska was voted Austrian Footballer of the Century.
In the 1990s, Toni Polster and Andreas Herzog were famous Austrian players abroad: they both made their mark in the German Bundesliga. Polster competed with Krankl for the Golden Shoe. His 44 goals for Austria are a record for the national team. Herzog is the record holder with 103 caps.
Together with Switzerland, Austria hosted the UEFA EURO 2008 finals, a milestone in the history of the ÖFB. This was the country’s first participation in the UEFA European Championship.
Eight years on, this investment in youth football is finally paying off. Led by David Alaba, Austria qualified for EURO 2016 with nine wins and one draw in qualifying. But Marcel Koller’s side were unable to confirm their potential at the finals in France.
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