|Full name||Josef Bican|
|Date of birth||25 September 1913|
|Place of birth||Vienna, Austria-Hungary|
|Date of death||12 December 2001(aged 88)|
|Place of death||Prague, Czech Republic|
|Height||1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)|
|1951–1952||FC Hradec Králové[a]||26||(53)|
|1957||TJ Slovan Liberec||1||(0)|
|1957||Spartak Brno ZJŠ||4||(2)|
|1939||Bohemia and Moravia||1||(3)|
|1956–1959||TJ Slovan Liberec|
|1957–1958||Spartak Brno ZJŠ|
|1959–1960||TJ Spartak ZJS Brno|
|1963–1964||TJ Baník Příbram|
|1964||FC Hradec Králové|
|*Club domestic league appearances and goals|
Josef "Pepi" Bican (25 September 1913 – 12 December 2001) was an Austrian-Czech professional footballer who played as a striker. He is the second-most prolific goalscorer in official matches in recorded history according to Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF), with over 950 goals scored in 624 matches.
According to RSSSF, Bican scored over 1813 total goals in over 1089 total matches. In total Bican scored 1137 goals in more than 514 games for Slavia Praha including friendlies, with a ratio of 1.79 goals per game across his almost 15-year career at the club in total.
Bican began his professional career at Rapid Vienna in 1931. After four years at Rapid, he moved to local rivals Admira Vienna. Bican won four league titles during his time in Austria, moved to Slavia Praha in 1937, where he stayed until 1948, and became the club's all-time top goalscorer. He later played for FC Vitkovice, FC Hradec Králové, and Dynamo Praha, retiring in 1955 as the all-time top goalscorer in the Czechoslovak First League with 447 goals.
Bican was a member of the Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930s and represented the nation at the 1934 FIFA World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals. He later switched allegiance to the Czechoslovakia national football team, but a clerical error related to his transfer of national team precluded him from playing in the 1938 FIFA World Cup. Bican was a tall and powerful player, with the technical ability to play with both feet, and had considerable pace. During his athletic prime, he was reportedly capable of running 100 metres in 10.8 seconds, which was not far off the leading sprinters of his time.
After his retirement from playing, Bican became a manager, and coached various teams from the 1950s until the 1970s. In 1998, Bican was given a "Medal of Honour" by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) for being among the world's most successful top division goalscorers of all time. In 2000, the IFFHS awarded Bican the "Golden Ball" in recognition of his status as the greatest goalscorer of the 20th century. The award was based on how many times a player had been top scorer in his domestic league, a feat which Bican achieved 12 times.
Bican was born in Vienna to František and Ludmila Bican. He was the second of three children. František was from Sedlice in Southern Bohemia, and Ludmila was Viennese Czech. Josef's father František was a footballer who played for Hertha Vienna. He fought in World War I and returned uninjured. However, František died at the early age of 30 in the year 1921 after refusing an operation to treat a kidney injury sustained in a football match. His mother worked in a restaurant kitchen.
The family's poverty meant that Bican initially had to play football without shoes, which helped him improve his ball control skills. Bican attended the Jan Amos Komenský school, a Czech school in Vienna. In 1925, four years after his father's death, twelve-year-old Bican started to play for the Hertha Vienna junior team, Hertha Vienna II. When he was 18, Bican was spotted by Rapid Vienna, who were a big club in the city at the time.
In 1931, when Bican first joined Rapid, he received 150 schillings, but, by the age of 20, Rapid wanted to keep him so much that they paid him 600 schillings. In his debut game against Austria Vienna, club where Matthias Sindelar played, Bican scored four goals in a victory 5–3. Bican won the Austrian title with Rapid in 1934–35 and his first goalscoring title, but by the end of the season, he had been suspended after refusing to sign a new contract and Bican decided to go on strike. Through one of his uncles, a deal was done with Admira Vienna, at the time the most successful side in Austrian history. Rapid however refused to release his registration, and Bican went nine months without playing a game. When he was allowed to leave, Bican won championships in both his seasons with the Vienna club, but his heart was set on his family's homeland.
During 1937, Bican left Vienna to join Czech club Slavia Prague. Bican was the top scorer in his first season, but Slavia finished as runner-up. The following season, in March 1939, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and football split on similar lines, with Bohemian and Moravian clubs carrying their results from the Czechoslovak league into the new Bohemian-Moravian league. Bican was again the top scorer of the league but Sparta Prague, Slavia's greatest rival, won the championship again. The third year (1941) the first of Bican's four championships came with the third of the continuous 10 goalscoring titles. He played for Slavia throughout World War II, while many of his football rivals were at war. During eight league seasons he scored 328 goals, including 57 in 26 matches one particular season (1943–44). Three times in his career, Bican scored seven goals in a game. In a 1939–40 league match against Zlín, Bican found the net seven times as Slavia ran out 10–1 winners. During the 1939–40 season, he set a world record for the longest goal-scoring streak in a European top division when he scored at least one goal for 19 games in a row, netting a total of 47 goals over his run that included hat-tricks in 5 back-to-back league games. His record stood for 73 years until it was broken in 2013 by Lionel Messi (21 games in the Spanish league). During the 1940–41 season, Bican matched his feat of the previous season, again against Zlín, scoring seven times, as Slavia won by a 12–1 scoreline. It was 1947–48 before Bican managed his third seven-goal match, as Slavia defeated České Budějovice in a game which finished 15–1.
He was in the leagues that he played, the top-scorer 12 times during his 25-year professional career and Europe's and the world's top scorer in five consecutive seasons, from 1939–40 to 1943–44, a record that still stands.
After the war several of Europe's big clubs were interested in signing Bican. Italian side Juventus were very keen and offered Bican handsome terms. He was advised that there was a big chance the Communists could take over in Italy, but what actually happened was the opposite. When the Communists came to power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, Bican refused to join the Communist Party, just as before the war he had refused to join the Nazi Party in Austria. Josef Bican's image had established him as one of the biggest names in the country's society. But his happy days were soon to be over. The communist government wanted to use Bican as a propaganda weapon. When he refused to be a puppet, the Czechoslovak authorities put it about that Bican was a bourgeois Viennese, ignoring his plea that his origins were humble.
Bican tried to improve his standing with the Communists by joining steel works Železárny Vítkovice. During 1952, he joined FC Hradec Králové,[a] where he managed to score 53 goals in 26 matches. On 1 May 1953, the Communist Party forced him to leave the city and, therefore, the club. After being forced to leave, he returned to Slavia Prague, or, as it was known then, Dynamo Prague. He continued to play for Dynamo until retiring from playing at the age of 42 in 1955. He was the oldest player in the league at that time.
|S.K Rapid Amateur||Amt.||1931||—||2||3||—||2||3|
|SK Slavia Prague||1||1936–37||—||1||4||—||1||4|
|Sokol Vítkovice Železárny||2||1949||17||44||—||—||17||44|
|FC Hradec Králové[a]||2||1952||26||53||4||7||—||30||60|
|Total Hradec Králové||26||53||4||7||0||0||30||60|
|FC Slovan Liberec||3||1957||1||0||—||—||1||0|
|FC Zbrojovka Brno||4||1957||4||2||—||—||4||2|
On 29 November 1933, aged 20 years and 64 days, Bican made his debut for Austria in a 2–2 draw against Scotland. He later played for them at the 1934 World Cup, when the Austrian Wunderteam reached the semifinals. His solitary goal in the tournament came in extra time of Austria's 3–2 win over France.
At the time Bican was playing for Slavia Prague, he applied for Czechoslovak citizenship. However, when he eventually became a Czechoslovak citizen, he discovered that a clerical error meant he couldn't play at the 1938 World Cup. In total, he scored 29 goals in 34 international matches for three national teams (Austria, Czechoslovakia and Bohemia & Moravia). His final national team appearance was for Czechoslovakia in a 3–1 defeat against Bulgaria on 4 September 1949.
However, his success did have a disadvantage. Other members of the team became jealous of the tall, handsome Bican's success, and he was sometimes called abusive names, such as "Austrian bastard".
In addition to representing Austria, Czechoslovakia and the region of Bohemia & Moravia, Bican also played a number of fixtures playing for teams consisting of the best players from a league or town between 1939 and 1949. For the Bohemia-Moravia league team in 1939 he played six games scoring nine goals, for the Bohemia league team in 1940–1944 he played eight games scoring 11 goals, for Prague from 1938 to 1948 he played six games scoring one goal and Ostrava in 1949 he played one game scoring one goal, bringing Bican's total number of official goals outside of club football to 48 goals in 54 games.
Austria's goal tally
|1.||10 December 1933||Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam, Netherlands||Netherlands||1–0||1–0||Friendly|
|2.||11 February 1934||Charmilles Stadium, Geneva, Switzerland||Switzerland||1–0||3–2||1933–35 Dr. Gero Cup|
|4.||15 April 1934||Hohe Warte Stadium, Vienna, Austria||Hungary||4–2||5–2||Friendly|
|6.||27 May 1934||Stadio Benito Mussolini, Turin, Italy||France||3–1||3–2||1934 FIFA World Cup|
|7.||6 October 1935||Praterstadion, Vienna, Austria||Hungary||1–1||4–4||1933–1935 Dr.Gero Cup|
|10.||19 January 1936||Estadio Metropolitano de Madrid, Madrid, Spain||Spain||3–3||5–4||Friendly|
|11.||26 January 1936||Campo da Constituição, Porto, Portugal||Portugal||3–1||3–2||Friendly|
|12.||22 March 1936||Praterstadion, Vienna, Austria||Czechoslovakia||1–1||1–1||1936–37 Dr. Gero Cup|
|13.||5 April 1936||Praterstadion, Vienna, Austria||Hungary||1–1||3–5||Friendly|
Czechoslovakia's goal tally
|1.||7 August 1938||Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden||Sweden||2–0||6–2||Friendly|
|4.||28 August 1938||Stadion Concordije, Zagreb, Kingdom of Yugoslavia||Yugoslavia||2–0||3–1||1937-38 Eduard Benes Cup|
|5.||4 December 1938||AC Sparta Stadion, Praha, Czechoslovakia||Romania||1–2||6–2|
|9.||11 May 1947||Yugoslavia||1–0||3–1||Friendly|
|11.||31 August 1947||Poland||1–0||6–3|
Bohemia and Moravia's goal tally
|1.||12 November 1939||Hermann Göring Stadium, Wroclaw, Nazi Germany||Germany||1–0||4–4||Friendly|
During the spring of 1968, Bican was told that he would be allowed to have a coaching job abroad. He impressed the Belgian team Tongeren and they hired him as a coach, where he had some success taking them from Division 4 to Division 2.
Around this time, Pelé was getting ready for his 1000th goal and many journalists were searching for another player who had scored a thousand goals. Former Austrian player Franz "Bimbo" Binder suggested Bican, who he claimed to have scored over 5000 goals in all competitions. When reporters asked Bican why he had not sought more attention for his goalscoring feats, he simply said, "who'd have believed me if I said I'd scored five times as many goals as Pelé?" However, to score over 5000 goals he should have kept an average of 185 goals/year along all his 27 years of career, but only counting goals in official matches, Bican scored at least 950 goals. Bican's goal-scoring feats are often forgotten because he did not make a big fuss about it in the media. His record is often overshadowed by Pelé's 1303 goal record, including goals in unofficial matches. But shortly before his death in 2001, IFFHS based on RSSSF statistics declared Bican with 643 league goals, the most prolific scorer of the 20th century. This was judged by the number of times a player had been top scorer in his domestic league. Bican managed this feat 12 times, more than any other player in football history.
In the 1990s, Bican spoke to Czech TV about the difficulty of scoring during his era: "When I talk to young reporters, they always say, 'Mr Bican, scoring was easier back in your day.' But I ask them, 'How come? Look, are there opportunities today?' And they tell me, 'Of course there are, many of them'. And I say, 'There you go. If there weren't opportunities, it would be difficult. But if there are, scoring is the same as it was a hundred years ago, and will be the same in a hundred years' time, too. It will always be the same."
"Bican was incredibly unlucky at the height of his career. There was no World Cup in 1942 or 1946 because of the war. If the 1942 edition had taken place, for example, he would surely have become more widely known. Perhaps he might even have been as famous as Pele", Radovan Jelinek, sports historian said about him.
Josef Bican spent the last few months of his life in hospital with heart problems. He had hoped to be home for Christmas, but died less than 2 weeks before that, at the age of 88. In September 2013, which would have been Bican's 100th birthday, Slavia Prague commemorated him by wearing shirts that featured a replica of his signature on them.