Curses in football are not something that fans will see as a new thing but a curse on a club that prevents them from lifting major trophies is one everybody has to sit down and analyse. Benfica curse is one curse in football history that has got many people asking questions. Questions like what happened? What is the possible solution to the curse or how can they reverse the curse.
The Benfica Curse is not the first as it took the Boston Red Sox 86 years to break the Curse of the Bambino, while for the Chicago Cubs, it’s 104 years and counting. So in the annals of great sporting hoodoos, Portuguese football club Benfica has a way to go. However, after eight defeats in the European finals since 1962, it becomes harder to deny that the club’s Bela Guttman curse is hunting them.
What Led to the Benfica Curse?
Béla Guttmann who was known as the Jose Mourinho of his era had just led Benfica to back-to-back European Cup victories and the Portuguese club looked set to rule the international stage for years to come.
The Benfica Curse can be traced back to 1962, when Guttmann helped Benfica rose to an international stage. The Portuguese side was the strongest team in the World at that time. The coach helped the club with players who were not the top class at that time.
The club at that time seems unstoppable, after winning the European Cup in 1961, Benfica was once again in the finals a year later, this time against Real Madrid. However even they were no match for Béla Guttmann and his players as the match ended 5:3 for the “Eagles”.
What is the Benfica Curse About?
This was the 2nd title in a row for Benfica and their 2nd European title in the club’s history. Due to phenomenal performances of the club under Béla Guttmann, he gathered his courage and went to the Benfica board to ask for a pay raise, which is a fair thing to ask after bringing the team to 2 titles right?
Well, the board did not feel like he deserves it and denied him the raise. This now proved to be the biggest mistake any club in the world has made. In anger and disbelief, Béla Guttmann stormed out of the club and said his final words which resonate in Benfica fans’ ears many years later: “Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions.“
At that point, it seemed like a harmless statement from a coach that was angry by the decision made by the Benfica board, but it turned out to be more than just his “opinion.” Fast forward to 1963 and Benfica were once again in the finals of the European Cup, playing against the Italian team, AC Milan who appeared in the finals for the 2nd time in their history and were looking to win the first European Cup. Odds were of course in Benfica’s favour, however, Milan won 2:1.
Two years later, Benfica was once again in the finals, this time facing Inter Milan and lost again. In the 1967/68 European Cup, they faced Manchester United, same story. This continued for all the subsequent European finals, including five European Cup finals in 1963;1965;1968;1988 and 1990 and 3 UEFA Cup finals in 1983;2013 and 2014.
The last European Cup final it was involved in was held in Vienna, where Guttman is buried, and legend Eusebio even went to the grave of his former manager to pray for the forgiveness of the late coach and let him lift the curse. It had little effect and Benfica remains jinxed.
In one of the pre-match conferences, the then head coach Jesus bullishly said he didn’t believe in any sort of hoodoo, adding: “most of the players don’t even know about these statistics. It’s folklore.”
However, after once again bemoaning his team’s poor luck in a final and saying “the best team did not win the Europa League.” The Portuguese club was arguably the better side over the 120 minutes in their last Europa League final, but ultimately lost 4-2 to Sevilla on penalties after the match ended goalless.
Before the game the club built a statue for the late manager just to show how sorry they are but at the end of the day it marked their second successive year ending with a runner-up medals, after losing to Chelsea in the final of the same competition last season.
The captain (Luisao) of the club after the defeat said: “The players fought but they lacked a bit of luck again,” “Once again, in a final, the ball just didn’t go in.” It’s been 56 years and counting now and the club is still suffering that curse.
In their last Champions League appearance they were beaten by Liverpool in the quarter-finals. The question now is will the curse finally be stopped or will the club have to wait for the remaining 44 years to make it 100 years as Gutmann had said?