SK Rapid Wien
Despite falling into a slump in recent decades, Sportklub Rapid Wien is still Austria’s most successful club by a large margin. Since their founding in 1899, they’ve won 32 Austrian Championships and 14 Austrian Cups, and have also reached the Cup Winners’ Cup final on two occasions. Their inter-city rivalry with Austria Wien ranks among the most hotly contested derby matches in Europe.
Austrian Bundesliga: 32
Austrian Cup: 14
Josef Uridil, Anatoli Zinchenko, Hugo Maradona
Most games played: Steffen Hofmann (540)
Top goalscorer: Robert Dienst (322)
The club was originally formed in 1897, under the name of Erster Wiener Arbeiter-Fußball-Club (Wiener Arbeiter FK), a name that accented the working-class belonging. However, they encountered early hardships, winning just one game out of the original 19. This led to an emergency meeting in 1899, where the club was renamed to Sportklub Rapid Wien. They kept playing in blue-red kits until 1905, at which point they adopted the now-traditional green-white colors.
Soon enough, Rapid emerged as the dominant club in the country. After winning the inaugural national championship in 1912, they followed it up by claiming nine additional trophies by 1923. Somewhere around this time, the club became known for its competitive spirit, especially when it came to winning games late. This led to fans chanting and clapping during the final fifteen minutes of the game, which is a tradition that Rapid is still known for today.
Despite the emergence of Admira Wien and First Vienna over the following period, Rapid continued to be a strong presence in Austrian football. Following the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938, the country’s football system was drastically changed. Rapid and a few other Austrian clubs joined the Gauliga Ostmark, where they played until the end of WWII in 1945. During this time, they won a German Championship and a German Cup.
The post-WWII era (1946-1960) was arguably the most successful period in the club’s history, as they went on to claim eight Austrian Championships. For their 50th anniversary, Rapid embarked on an international tour of South America, where they played with teams such as São Paulo, Flamengo, and Vasco da Gama. These matches had a big impact on the club, and they soon adopted the “Brazilian” system of the modern back four.
This period also saw Rapid make a name for itself internationally. As Austrian champions, they took part in the inaugural European Cup in 1955. Following a 6-2 rout of PSV in the opening round, Rapid lost to Milan 3-8 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. Their best appearance in the competition arrived in 1961, when they lost to eventual champions Benfica in the semi-finals.
Rise and fall
The ‘60s were another reasonably strong decade for Rapid, as they won three more championships in 1964, 1967, and 1968. However, these turned out to be their last major trophies for a while. Despite a move to the brand-new Gerhard-Hanappi-Stadion in 1977, Rapid was unable to compete with Austria Wien and Wacker Innsbruck, two clubs which dominated most of this period.
Rapid regained its footing during the ‘80s, winning four Austrian Championships and four Austrian Cups. The club was also a part of a controversial episode in the 1984 Cup Winners’ Cup. Though they lost to Celtic 3-4 in the round of 16, the match was replayed due to a Rapid player feigning to have been hit with a bottle by Celtic fans. Rapid won the replay and eventually reached the competition’s finals, where they lost to Everton 1-3.
In the decades that followed, Rapid slowly dropped off the football map. They’ve won only three national championships since, along with a single cup trophy. In 1996, they made it back to the Cup Winners’ Cup finals, but they lost 0-1 to Paris Saint-Germain.
By Martin Wahl