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Born: Friday 1 December 1911, Sankt Pölten, Austria-Hungary (now Austria)
Died: Monday 24 April 1989, Vienna, Austria (aged 77)
Austrian striker Franz Binder is one of the very few players in the history of the game who is reported to have scored more than 1,000 goals in all matches throughout his career. A tall, lanky forward who was famed for his spectacular free kicks, he played for Rapid Vienna for almost 20 years and later managed the club several times with great success. He also appeared at international level for both Austria and Germany, after his home country's annexation in 1938.
Binder was born into a poor family in the town of St Pölten on 1 December 1911. He was the fourth of ten children, and he and his siblings grew up in very cramped conditions in a small house. Like his brother Karl, he was a keen footballer and at the age of 12 joined Karl at local team Sturm 19 St Pölten. In the first team by the age of 15, it was clear that Franz was going to be the better player. Although not the most technically gifted, he was extremely physically fit and had a very powerful and accurate shot. His shooting was so powerful that he was rumoured to have sometimes torn the net when scoring goals.
At the age of 19, Rapid Vienna watched him for the first time and immediately made the decision to sign him up. Binder played for Rapid for the first time towards the end of the 1930-31 season, but did not move to Vienna for several years, commuting from his parents' home in St Pölten until 1936. He played infrequently during 1931-32, but still scored six goals in eight league games and by the following was a regular in the first team. In 1932-33, Binder scored 25 goals in 22 matches to lead the league in goalscoring and help Rapid to finish second in the table. His form earned him a first call-up to the national team, making his debut in a 4-1 win over Belgium in Vienna, in which he scored two of Austria's goals.
In 1933-34 he again reached the 20 goal mark in the league and helped Rapid to reach the Austrian Cup final, but that match ended in huge disappointment as they were sensationally thrashed 8-0 by rivals Admira. There was further disappointment that summer as Binder was not a part of the highly-fancied Austrian squad for the World Cup in Italy, who without him reached the semi-finals. The following season however was much better, as he scored 21 goals in 22 games as Rapid won the league title without losing a game.
From 1936, Binder embarked on a unique run of domination in the league goalscoring lists. He finished as leading scorer for five consecutive seasons, a feat which has never been matched. The second of those seasons, 1937-38, brought another league title but the events of 1938 would have a huge impact not just on Binder's career but on the whole of Austria. The country was annexed by Germany, the result of which in football terms was the end of the Austrian league and the formation of the "Gauliga Ostmark". There was also an impact at international level. In October 1937 Binder had scored the winning goal in a World Cup qualifier against Latvia which took Austria through to the finals, but by the time of the tournament in France the country no longer existed and his last chance to play in the tournament was taken away.
Rapid won the 'Ostmark' league in both 1940 and 1941, with Binder scoring an incredible 1.5 goals per game in 1940-41 (27 in 18 matches). The league format meant that Rapid would go through to the German national championship, played for by regional champions. They reached the final against Schalke 04, who were clear favourites and took a 3-0 lead. Georg Schors pulled one goal back, and then Binder took over. With two trademark free kicks and a penalty, his hat-trick gave Rapid a 4-3 win and made them the only Austrian team to win the German title. During this period, he was one of the Austrian players who was brought into the German national team and he scored 10 goals in nine matches between 1939 and 1941.
Having been called up to serve in the Second World War, Binder's opportunities to play football were extremely limited over the next four years. He served on the Russian front and as one of the most famous footballer in Europe, his image was used by the Nazis in propaganda images. When football did resume in 1945, Binder returned to Rapid and showed that he had lost none of his abilities. He scored 17 goals in 1945-46 and Rapid the first post-war Austrian title, by a single point ahead of Austria Vienna.
Binder's playing career continued until 1949, by which time he was the all-time leading goalscorer in the Austrian league, a record which has since been surpassed by only two players. He even made a handful more appearances for the Austrian national team after the war, but coaching began to be more of a priority. In 1946 he became player-coach at Rapid, and combined the two roles to lead the team to yet another title success in 1948. Another championship followed in 1951, with Binder's team proving as prolific in front of goal as he had been himself. In that season, they scored 133 goals in just 24 league games, an average of more than 5.5 per game.
Binder left Rapid in the autumn of 1951, more than 20 years after he had joined the club as a player. He moved into Germany to coach Jahn Regensburg and 1. FC Nuremberg, and then into the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven. He was never able to replicate the success he had achieved at Rapid however, and in 1962 returned 'home' for a second spell in charge of the team, winning yet another Austrian title in 1963-64.
Leaving Rapid for a second time in 1966, Binder took over as coach at 1860 Munich in November 1969. When he arrived, the team was bottom of the Bundesliga and although a quick revival moved them up the table, a poor run over the last ten games saw 1860 drop back into the relegation zone, where they would ultimately finish. Binder left that summer, and spent several years away from top-level football.
In 1975, he returned to Rapid again to coach the team alongside Robert Körner, and they led the team to further success with an away goals victory over Wacker Innsbruck in the Austrian Cup final. That was to prove to be Binder's final major success, and he soon retired from coaching. He died in 1989 at the age of 77, and thousands of people turned out to pay their last respects at his funeral in Vienna.
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- Published on Saturday, 11 February 2012 12:15