Ernst Happel

Ernst Franz Hermann Happel (29 November 1925 – 14 November 1992) was an Austrian football player and coach.

Ernst Happel
Happel in a commemorative banner
Personal information
Full name Ernst Franz Hermann Happel
Date of birth (1925-11-29)29 November 1925
Place of birth Vienna, Austria
Date of death 14 November 1992(1992-11-14) (aged 66)
Place of death Innsbruck, Austria
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Playing position Defender
Youth career
1938–1942 Rapid Wien
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1942–1954 Rapid Wien 177 (8)
1955–1956 RC Paris 42 (9)
1956–1959 Rapid Wien 63 (17)
Total 282 (34)
National team
1947–1958 Austria 51 (5)
Teams managed
1962–1969 ADO Den Haag
1967San Francisco Gales (USA)
1969–1973 Feyenoord
1973–1974 Sevilla
1974–1978 Club Brugge
1977–1978 Netherlands
1979 Harelbeke
1979–1981 Standard Liège
1981–1987 Hamburger SV
1987–1991 Swarovski Tirol
1992 Austria
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

He is regarded as one of the most successful managers ever, winning both league and domestic cup titles in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria as well as winning the European Cup twice, the first in 1970 and the second in 1983, and a runners-up medal at the 1978 FIFA World Cup. He was the first of the five managers to have won the European Cup with two clubs, Carlo Ancelotti, Ottmar Hitzfeld, José Mourinho and Jupp Heynckes being the other four. He is also one of six managers – along with José Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Giovanni Trapattoni, Tomislav Ivić and Eric Gerets – to have won domestic league championships in at least four countries.

Playing career

Club level

Happel started his professional playing career at Rapid Wien, where he made his first team debut at age 17. Forming a solid defensive partnership with Max Merkel, he played 14 years for Rapid, from 1943 till 1954 and 1956 till 1959, winning the Austrian Championship title six times. He was chosen in Rapid's Team of the Century in 1999.[1]

The two years in between Happel played for Racing Club de Paris in France.

International level

Happel made his debut for Austria in September 1947 against Hungary and was a participant at the 1954 FIFA World Cup in Switzerland, where he helped them reach third place, and also at the 1958 World Cup. His last international was a September 1958 match against Yugoslavia. He earned 51 caps and scored 5 goals.[2]

Managerial career

After retiring as a player, Happel went on to become one of the greatest coaches of all-time. He won the league title in four countries. He also took two clubs to gold in the European Champions' Cup (now the UEFA Champions League) and the Netherlands to second place in the 1978 World Cup. His first club was ADO Den Haag in 1962, with whom he won the Dutch Cup in 1968. After Den Haag he coached Feyenoord, with whom he won the European Cup (defeated Glasgow Celtic in the final) and the Intercontinental Cup in 1970, and the Dutch championship in 1971.

At the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, Happel was coach of the Dutch national team and reached the final against the Argentine national team. Always a man of few words, Happel's pre-match pep talk is said to have consisted of just one sentence: "Gentlemen, two points." The Dutch, however, lost the final 3-1 in extra time.

During his career as coach, Happel worked for several clubs, including Sevilla, Club Brugge (winning the Belgian Championship title several times) and Hamburger SV (1981–1987, German champions in 1982 and 1983, German Cup winner 1987).

In 1983, he won the European Cup again, 13 years after the triumph with Feyenoord, this time with Hamburger SV, defeating Juventus in the final. He is one of five coaches in the history of the European Cup (now called Champions League) to win the title with two clubs, the others being Ottmar Hitzfeld, who won with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich; José Mourinho, who won with Porto and Inter Milan; Jupp Heynckes, who won with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich; and Carlo Ancelotti, who won with Milan and Real Madrid.

In 1987, Happel returned to Austria as coach of Swarovski Tirol. With the club, he won the Austrian Championship title twice (1989 and 1990) before becoming coach of the Austria national team in 1992.

Personal life

All youth players of Rapid Vienna automatically became member of the Hitler Jugend in 1938. Ernst reported he refused to sing along to their songs until he was kicked out of their gatherings.[3]

He was conscripted and dispatched to the Eastern Front in 1943. Although he never saw action, he was arrested by the Americans in 1945. He escaped by jumping out of the train wagon in Munich and took several months to make his way back to Vienna. He smuggled himself into the Russian zone with the excuse that he had seen from afar his house was still standing and that he'd started playing at Rapid Vienna again.[3]

Ernst Happel never married. He was described by one of his ex-players Birger Jensen as a bit of a loner, always accompanied by his cigarettes and cognac.[4] He nevertheless would meet up with Austrian friends, enjoying card games, pool and darts.[4]


A heavy smoker for most of his adult life, Happel died of lung cancer in 1992 at age 66. In the wake of his death, the biggest football stadium in Austria, the Praterstadion in Vienna, was renamed the Ernst-Happel-Stadion. Four days after his death, Austria played against Germany and reached a 0–0 draw; Happel's cap lay on the bench during the entire match.

Managerial statistics


*Dates of first and last games under Happel not dates of official appointments

National teams

Team From To Record
Netherlands 31 August 1977 25 June 1978 12 8 2 2 066.67
Austria 1 January 1992 14 November 1992 9 2 3 4 022.22
Total 21 10 5 6 047.62
*Dates of first and last games under Happel not dates of official appointments


As a player

As a coach


  1. Team of the Century Archived 11 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine – Rapid Archive
  2. Appearances for Austrian National Team – RSSSF
  3. "125 Jaar Club Brugge: het fantastische 'volgasvoetbal' van Ernst Happel, 19/11/1925-14/11/1992 (4) – RW". De Witte Duivel (in Dutch). 22 November 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  4. "Ernst Happel (29/11/1925-14/11/1992), Weense Weltmeister bij Club Brugge, aflevering 2". De Witte Duivel (in Dutch). 10 November 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  5. "France Football have ranked the 50 greatest managers of all time". GiveMeSport. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  6. "Greatest Managers, No. 14: Ernst Happel". ESPN FC. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
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