Joseph Bican

Player Analysis
Anand P

Anand P


Remembering the greatest goal scorer of all time. No, it is not Pele, we are discussing here. We are discussing someone who caught the attention of the media once again after Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed his prolific goal-scoring tally recently. Yes, we are talking about the Austrian goal-scoring machine Joseph Bican, probably regarded, as the least known talent of world football.

We are talking about a player who scored 1468 goals in 918 matches (in both official and unofficial stats) -Josef Bican.

Joseph “Pepi” Bican was born on September 25, 1913 in Vienna. His father was a war veteran and a professional footballer at the time. Meanwhile, his mother worked in a local restaurant. Raised as the second child of three, Bican lost his father at a very young age a few years later. With poverty and constant struggles with early childhood, Bican started playing football by the time he was 10. He spent most of his early days playing street football with perfect physique to match his technique in the game. However, due to the lack of proper finances and the staggering economy of 20s, life was not easy for him. He had to play barefoot since boots were not affordable at that time. He recalled these days in an interview later in his life.

“In Vienna, there were thousands of boys who played football every day. In those days, there were not games or bikes, nothing like that. They did not exist at all. We didn’t even have footballs – we used to make these things called hadraks – rag balls – and we played all day, from morning to evening.”

Due to this, he became exceptional and comfortable playing with both feet. At the age of 12, he was already playing for the Hertha Vienna junior team, Hertha Vienna II. By the age of 18, Austrian giants, Rapid Vienna, recruited Bican. He had already bagged 71 goals in 43 games by the time he signed with them, and as a teenager, he soon started to grab attention from all across Europe. His first salary was just 160 schillings and by the time he was 20, he was already earning 600 shillings. By 1933, Bican was already grabbing attention in his country such that he was called up for the senior Austrian team. His introduction came at a perfect time, as in the 30s Austrian Football was flourishing with top players. The Wunderteam, as they would be called today, entered the 1934 World Cup with high hopes and they gave an excellent account of themselves, reaching the semi-finals.  Bican made his debut in a 2–2 draw against Scotland and scored his only goal of the tournament in Austria’s 3–2 win over France. Their world cup dream was crushed as they were eventually defeated by soon to be crowned Italy. Unfortunately, for Bican, it was the last time he ever came close to something incredible with Austria as he applied for Czech citizenship upon joining the Slavia Prague side in 1937.

However, after he became a Czech citizen, he was denied the chance to play in the 1938 world cup due to a clerical mistake. He played for Slavia for 11 years; he scored 29 goals in 34 international goals in the jersey of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Bohemia & Moravia. In 14 matches for Czechoslovakia, he scored 12 times. He should have scored more but for the terrible intervention of World War 2. During this time, he played for Slavia scoring 328 goals in 8 seasons, including 57 in 26 matches one particular season. With the war waging and playing under a Nazi protectorate, meaning he only managed just the 395 goals in 217 games despite managing to be the highest scorer in the league 12 times in his career. In addition, he is said to have managed to score 7 goals in each of three games. Something that enabled Bican to score so many goals was his incredible pace. He apparently had the ability to sprint 100 meters in 10.8 seconds as per the old reports available to date. To add more to the claims made, former Austrian player ‘Bimbo’ Binder claimed that Bican had scored 5000 goals. Also in Europe, during this time he managed to be the top scorer for over five consecutive campaigns extending from the1939/40 to1943/44 season.

During the post-war era, several Europeans elites tried to sign Bican. Juventus came closest but Bican refused, due to advice that he had received that Italy would soon become communist. But in a twist of fate the communists came to power in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and he refused to join the communist party when offered, just as he had rejected an invitation to join the Nazi party earlier. During these struggles, he eventually had a brief stint with FC Vitkovice and later with Hradec Kralove in 1951. However, due to troubles with the Communist regime, he left and returned to his former club Slavia Prague   He eventually left Slavia in 1948 and returned to his beloved team five years later, where he saw out the final years of his career. Bican retired in 1955 aged 42, and he was able to score 22 goals in 29 matches during his final spell at the club. By the time he retired, he had 27 long years not to mention the number of goals the man had scored during this time. By the time, he hung up his boots he had already played for Rapid Vienna, Admira Wien, Slavia Prague, Vitkovice Zelezarny, Sokol Skoda and Dynamo Prague and managed to score 730 goals in 459 matches in all competitions. Soon after he retired, Bican became a manager in 50s until the late 70s, which includes an incredible spell with the Belgian side Tongeren, where he managed to take the lower league side from Division 4 to Division 2.

After leaving Slavia in 1956, he moved around several clubs in Czechoslovakia as a coach, including Vitkovice and Králové. It was also during this era, Pele managed his 1000th goal, and the buzzing media had long forgotten the Austrian legend and his records. In addition, he played fewer matches and had a tremendous goal-to-game ratio, his record is much better than that of what Pele achieved. When an interviewer asked Bican why he hasn’t sought more attention for his goal scoring records, he simply replied, “Who would have believed me if I said I’d scored five times as many goals as Pelé?”. Answering a younger generation of football fans, Bican stated in his interview that it wasn’t easy scoring goals, unlike the popular belief that scoring was easier then. As once stated by the football historian Radovan Jelinek, via Radio Prague International,

“He was a very complex player; he used both of his feet, he scored with his head, and from long and short distance shots. That is very rare now. He was also extremely fast – he ran 100 meters in 10.8 seconds, just 0.5 seconds slower than the world record at the time.”

You may also like