Not only the legendary Vienna Prater Stadium adopted the name of Ernst Happel. At the Weine Hotel in Bruges, a room was also named in honor of the Austrian trainer, who died in 1992 of cancer. Happel, in addition to being the first coach to win the European Cup with two different clubs (Feyenoord 1970 and Hamburg 1983), was a personality that at the end of the 70s made Bruges one of the most respected rivals in European football . The walls of the hotel bar where he lived during his three years in Bruges also hang sepia and color photographs of one of those coaches of the time, cigar, tracksuit and cap in the rain. A stereotype disintegrated by the erosiveness of changes in the uses and customs of societies. Cognac drinker, inveterate smoker, harsh with the press when something he did not like [“soy entrenador, no escribo libros…”], also biting to spread his ideas, atheist, condescending with euthanasia, as revealed in a mythical interview in Der Spiegel in 1986, good conversationalist in sesudas terturlias philosophicalbolistic in the cafés of Vienna, better with the cards in the casino "[la ruleta yo no la puedo manejar”]…
Happel was a grumpy fox with bohemian fur that in his first experience as a coach in 1962, to earn the respect of the players of ADO Den Haag, Dutch, who grumbled about finishing a workout by the heavy rain, placed a can on the crossbar and He knocked it down at the first shot. After that hierarchical hesitation, he told his players that when one of them hit, the session was considered over. There are versions that say he was the sixteenth player, others stretch it more, the one that managed to equal the aim of his coach. In any case, Happel got his way: his players were a little longer training and with an exercise of precision. A very trick of a deceitful lineage of journalists, by character, by genius and slyness. A way of understanding life and football of which perhaps Luis Aragonés was the last great representative. Upon his arrival in Hamburg in 1981, Happel repeated the same trick. On this occasion it is said that Franz Beckenbauer, who spent his last days as a player, hit the first. But Happel no longer needed to earn the respect of anyone.
"His memory is very latent in Bruges and in the club. I stayed a few months in that hotel where he lived. Happel established a strong friendship with the owner, who always tells funny stories about him and named one of the rooms, "says Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido, who led two seasons to Brujas. "He was a coach like a pine tree, that was obvious. He liked to train with a ball, he was demanding, Max Merkel style, but it had nothing to do with exercising with medicine balls. I was a kid who had just climbed to the first team, but it's hard to forget such a coach. The language was a problem for him. He arrived at Sevilla in one of the worst moments of his history and in the Second Division. The club made a very big effort to bring it, it was a very reputable technician who came from that great Feyenoord, "recalls former Sevilla player Pablo Blanco, whom Happel led in the 73-74 season. The curiosity that awakened him to be able to live in Seville, one of the reasons why he accepted the offer, lasted only 15 days. After that ephemeral step, Happel settled down in Bruges in 1975 and gave him the hegemony of Belgian football over the top thriving on the European stage Anderlecht. Three Leagues and a Cup in three seasons.
The pressure, the trap of the offside that he himself began to rehearse as the center of Austria in Vienna to the sound of his whistle, the positional flexibility of the players … With the same weapons with which he had given Feyenoord the Cup of Europe of 1970, Happel made Bruges a fearsome set. Under his direction, the Flemish club reached the final of the 1978 European Cup, lost against Liverpool (1-0, Dalglish) after eliminating Atlético in the quarterfinals and Juventus in the semifinals. A year earlier he had been Madrid's executioner in eighth, a tie that the white team should have played at La Rosaleda after the penalty for the unfortunate episode of Loco Bernabéu against Bayern Munich. "They were an attractive team and at the same time effective, they played a very modern football, similar to Ajax, although not so good. I played the first leg in Bruges (2-0) and Pacheco in the 3-2 round, "recalls goalkeeper Miguel Reina, who suffered from the waves of Jensen and right-back Bastijns, the shots from Lambert, the ability of the number 10 Courant , and the distant shots of central that exerted Líberos, Leekens and Krieger. The latter inherited the whistle of his coach to throw the offside.
Only 45 days after falling to Liverpool and after saying goodbye to Bruges as a living myth, Happel experienced his toughest defeat. His connections with the leading and innovative Dutch school sat him on the bench oranje to fall in the final of the Argentina World Cup 78 against the hosts (3-1) in the great night of Mario Alberto Kempes. The European Cup won with Hamburg at Juventus (1-0, Magath) repaid a little of that uneasiness. Then, he led the Swarowski Tyrol from 1987 to 1991. Madrid endorsed him in his fetish competition his biggest win as a coach (9-1), and the Austrian national team shortly before his death.
Forty years after having eliminated Atletico (he also knocked him down in the 1992 Recopa quarterfinals), Brujas is one of those clubs that made the European Cup great and that are victims of football neoliberalism and a phrase that has made time goes through the corridors of UEFA. "In Bruges, we live a lot of football, they are respectful, I have lived there and enjoyed my two best years as a coach. They, by history, feel like a great European club and you can tell that. But for them and for Belgian football it is difficult to keep their young talents because England, France, Germany, Ajax and PSV are very close and also the boys adapt easily because most, in addition to their language, speak French and English and even German ", reflects Juan Carlos Garrido.
Now under the direction of the exmalaguista Ivan Leko, and after more than a decade of absence in the Champions, at least the supporters of Bruges try to keep the flame of their history. About 3,000 will be tonight at the Metropolitan. Although the Ernst Happel of turn will no longer exist.