Mattias Sindelar

Mattias Sindelar, an Austrian footballer from the 1930s, is not known for the typical football fan today but was once one of the most familiar in the game. Known as "Der Papierene" (The Paperman) due to his slim build, Sindelar defied physical expectations and became an icon in a time when football was dominated by brute force. Beyond his technical brilliance and impeccable control over the ball, Sindelar's impact extended beyond the pitch. In an era overshadowed by political turmoil, he symbolized resistance against Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria. Despite immense pressure to conform, Sindelar refused to salute Hitler during matches. Tragically, Sindelar's story took a devastating turn when he mysteriously passed away in 1939 at the age of 35.

Basic facts

Birth: 1903
Death: 1939
Country: Austria
Position: Centre-forward


Hertha Vienna (1921–1924)
Austria Wien (1924–1939)


Club football: 335 matches, 244 goals
National team: 43 matches, 26 goals

Mattias Sindelar en face
Sindelar representing Austria at the 1934 World Cup.


Mattias Sindelar's impact on Austrian football

Mattias Sindelar, often referred to as the "Mozart of football," left an indelible mark on Austrian football during the 1920s and 1930s. His innovative playing style formed new standards for creativity and finesse. With his ability to seamlessly blend technical proficiency with tactical intelligence, he mesmerizing spectators with his elegant dribbling, precise passing and impressing vision on the field. His ability to read the game allowed him to anticipate opponents' moves and effortlessly create scoring opportunities for himself and teammates.

His scoring rate is also noteworty. During his period in Austria Wien he scored 240 times in 312 matches, which is almost 0,8 goals per match.

Moreover, his unwavering dedication to fair play and sportsmanship earned him admiration from fans and opponents alike. Beyond his achievements on the pitch, Sindelar's defiance against political interference in football remains an enduring testament to his character.


Beyond The Field

Mattias Sindelar left a profound and lasting impact on the world of football that extends far beyond his accomplishments on the field. One aspect of Sindelar's enduring impact is his role in shaping modern football tactics. His ability to read the game and dictate play made him a pioneer in positional play and strategic thinking. This influence can still be seen in contemporary football where players strive to emulate his intelligence and understanding of space.

Moreover, Sindelar's courageous defiance against Nazi Germany during Austria's annexation showcased his unwavering principles. By refusing to represent a country under oppressive rule, he became an emblem of resistance against tyranny.

Sindelar was perhaps the greatest Austrian footballer and he was also a part of the Wunderteam, the name given to the succesful Austrian national football team of the 1930s that also included prominet players such as Schall Smistik, Josef Bican, Josef Smistik and Walter Nausch. Sindelar was the center attacker and the captain of the team. The Austrian national team almost reached the final in 1938 World Cup, but the favorites to wiining it all was knocked out by the Italians with one goal.

On the 23 January 1939, Matthias Sindelar and his girlfriend Camilla Castagnola were found dead at their apartment in Vienna. The death was according to official record caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. The tragic event seemed as either an accident or a suicide, but there have also been speculations of a murder with Gestapo involved, although this haven't been proven. The context that supports a suicide was the depressing German annexation of Austria that just has happened.

By Anthony Ingle

Image source:
Storie di Calcio