Guttmann bi­og­ra­phy longlisted for top prize

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

A BI­OG­RA­PHY of a Holo­caust sur­vivor who went on to win the great­est prize in Euro­pean foot­ball has been longlisted for the UK’s most pres­ti­gious sport­ing book award.

The Great­est Come­back: From Geno­cide to Foot­ball Glory, by David Bol­chover, tells the story of Béla Guttmann, the mer­cu­rial Jewish man­ager who brought Euro­pean Cup glory to Ben­fica, win­ning two tro­phies back-to­back with the Por­tuguese club in the early 1960s.

It is on the longlist for the Wil­liam Hill Sports Book of the Year award, worth £29,000 in prize money.

“It’s great, ob­vi­ously”, said Mr Bol­chover.

“Any writer would be ly­ing if they said they weren’t happy to see their work recog­nised. But I’m also de­lighted that the whole story of Béla Guttmann will reach a wider au­di­ence now.”

Guttmann coached two dozen teams dur­ing a man­age­rial ca­reer span­ning four decades, from 19331973.

He is per­haps best known for the no­to­ri­ous “Guttmann Curse”. Foot­ball leg­end has it that when the man- ager left Ben­fica in 1962 in a dis­agree­ment over pay, he said that the club would not win an­other Euro­pean cham­pi­onship for 100 years.

Eight losing fi­nals later, Ben­fica have not won an­other Euro­pean tro­phy since.

How­ever, there was a six-year pe­riod in which Béla Guttmann did not man­age at all: 1939-1945.

“The big mys­tery about Guttmann was what had hap­pened to him in the Holo­caust,” Mr Bol­chover said.

“Most writ­ers who men­tioned him said he went to neu­tral Switzer­land, that his brother was killed in a con­cen­tra­tion camp, and that he met his wife in Switzer­land. All of that is com­pletely false.

“Through my re­search I dis­cov­ered he was in Hun­gary all along, hid­ing in an at­tic near Bu­dapest, near a ghetto from which thou­sands of Jews were de­ported to their deaths.

“He was then David Bol­chover’s book is a con­tender for the £29,000 prize in a slave labour camp from which he es­caped by jump­ing from a win­dow.

“This was not just a refugee, this was a Holo­caust sur­vivor who then went on to win the Euro­pean Cup. He won the most pres­ti­gious sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion on the very con­ti­nent which had wanted him dead.”

Gra­ham Sharp, the chair­man of judges and co-founder of the award, said: “All the books that make the longlist have an aw­ful lot of things go­ing for them. There were 131 en­tries, so to even get to this stage, you’ve got to get past 116 ri­vals.

“As with most of the books, [The Great­est Come­back] told me an aw­ful lot of stuff that I wasn’t aware of that my life is bet­ter for know­ing… one of the things that we try to em­pha­sise with the awards.”

Among the other 15 books on the long list are Know­ing the Score: My Fam­ily and Our Ten­nis Story by Judy Mur­ray, mother of ten­nis Grand Slam win­ner Andy Mur­ray; Ali: a Life by Jonathan Eig, a bi­og­ra­phy of Muham­mad Ali, and a rugby book, When the Li­ons Roared: The Li­ons, the All Blacks and the Leg­endary Tour of 1971.

The short­list for the prize will be re­vealed on Oc­to­ber 24, with the win­ner an­nounced on Novem­ber 28.


Béla Guttmann: Holo­caust sur­vivor and in­spi­ra­tional foot­ball man­ager

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