Josef Bican, among football’s greatest scorers, died 20 years ago
Josef Bican scored more goals in competition than even Cristiano Ronaldo. His technique, speed and ‘sixth sense’ at the lime are the stuff of legend.
Although born in Vienna (on 25 September 1913) and raised there, Josef Bican’s parents were Czechs, and few today would consider “Pepi” to have been an Austrian. At the start of his career, he played in Vienna’s most famous football clubs, Rapid and Admiral, and represented Austria at the international level. But, when he was 24 years old, Bican moved to his parents’ homeland and a year later acquired Czechoslovak citizenship.
Although the Second World War stymied his sports career, and after 1948, so did the Communists, even so, according to the International Federation of Football Historians and Statisticians, the legend of Prague’s Slavia club scored 1,468 goals in official matches – a historical record.
Some statistics put the number of goals at 821, as they do not count, for example, those scored in the second highest competition. Uncontested is the fact that Josef Bican scored a remarkable 18 times in 16 games representing Czechoslovakia.
Bican’s golden years were with Slavia, where he was an idol for fans not just of the club but of the beautiful game itself. In 1938, he competed in the Central European Cup, the predecessor of today’s Champions League. It was also the greatest success of his career. According to Slavia’s statistics, he competed in 240 league matches for the club, in which he scored 417 goals. He was also top scorer 12 times, 10 of them with Slavia.
After the war, a number of top European clubs tried to recruit Bican, among them Juventus Turin. He continued to play for many years, although in ever-weaker second-league teams. For the Communist Party, the “bourgeois idol” was a thorn in the side. After retiring from football, he was obliged to make his living as a worker, driver or feeder at the zoo.
Still, Bican never missed a match of the old guard Slavia and was a regular in the stands. After the fall of the Communist regime, he received retroactive recognition at Eden Stadium. On the 120th anniversary of Czech football, he won the title of the best Czech footballer in a Hattrick magazine poll, ahead of Golden Ball winners Josef Masopust and Pavel Nedvěd.
In 1998, asteroid no. 10634 was named after him – “Pepibican”.