After some mid week European action, the Premier League was back in action and as usual there’s plenty to talk about.
Has anyone heard about the ‘Curse of Bela Guttman’? Most probably not.
Perhaps the only curse apart from South Africa’s ‘choker’ tag, which remains valid until date.
Benfica, Portugal’s second-most successful club after Porto FC, made it to the finals of the 2013 Europa League, by beating Turkish outfit Fenerbahce.
They were up against a resurgent Chelsea outfit, led by once-a-Chelsea-nemesis Rafael Benitez.
The match was tied until the 88th minute after a Cardozo penalty nullified a Fernando Torres first-half strike.
But it came down to a lofted ball in from a corner, for Branislav Ivanovic to get a fine header that all but sealed the victory for the Blues.
It was a heart-breaking defeat for Jorge Jesus and his boys. Then everything changed the following season.
Benfica again got eliminated from the Champions League only to land in the Europa League for the second successive time; and for the second successive time, they made it to the finals.
This time around, there were up against a team, that secured a place in the competition by the virtue of another club, Malaga, who were was handed a penalty for their financial turbulences.
But as it turned out, Malaga’s loss was Sevilla gain.
Benfica was left to stand in disbelief after a second final’s loss in a row.
Their awful penalty conversion saw them going down 4-2 in the shootout.
Sometimes it’s painfully difficult to explain a defeat, especially a one in a final. But if that has been the trend for the eighth time in 62 years, without erring, then it has got to do with something else.
What is that?
As the Benfica fans would say, it’s the Curse of Bela Guttman.
Bela Guttman was a Hungarian footballer and coach. He coached Porto for a year before moving to Benfica. Under him, they twice won the European Cup from 1959-1962.
However, as history would say, he was sacked on acrimonious grounds. While departing from Portugal, Guttman allegedly cursed the club, declaring, “Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion”.
That says everything about their torrid luck in European finals ever since.
But why does Sevilla have a different story to tell?
In the 2012-2013 La Liga season, Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga finished sixth in the table, which automatically gave them a Europa League spot.
But as luck would have it, Court of Arbitration of Sports(CAS) banned Malaga from qualifying for any European competition for violating the ‘Fair Play Regulations’, which subsequently pummelled them into a financial crisis.
Rayo Vallecano, who had finished seventh, were denied a UEFA license to get into the Europa League, for their inability to sign a time-frame to pay off their creditors.
In this financial and fair-play tussle, Sevilla was the beneficiary.
They had finished ninth, yet they got into the Europa League. The rest is history.
They kept the curse alive in the hearts of the Benfica fans and went on to lift their first European Cup in eight years.
They became the first team to retain any European title by regaining their Europa League Cup, the following season. They beat Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, in Warsaw.
Then last season, against all odds and up against a tough Liverpool team, they came from behind at 0-1 at the break, to clinch it 3-1.
Three titles in three years. The first from chaos. They are now riding high in the Spanish league, having led for part of this year.
If anything can really explain such contrasting fortunes, it’s football. Nothing can really better it.