In praise of: Pepi Bican

When people grapple with the ultimately unneccesary but nevertheless fascinating topic of the greatest football players ever, hardly anyone would even mention Josef “Pepi” Bican.  This very fact alone has always made him a figure of particular interest to me.  According to RSSSF, he’s the all-time most prolific goalscorer in world football, with 804+ goals in around just 529 games.  Compare this to Pelé: 765 in 827 competitive games.  Even the great Brazilian’s overall total for all the games in his professional career – 1284 – is overshadowed by Bican’s 1467+.  Why, then, has Bican fallen from many people’s radar, whilst Pelé is still held up as the shining example of his craft? I think that it is partially due to the World Cup.  Pelé’s career in the finals of the world’s premier tournament is well-known.  Bican, born in Austria-Hungary in 1913, played in just one – the 1934 World Cup where his Austria team were beaten in the semi-finals by the host nation, Italy, after certain “discussions” had allegedly taken place between the officials and Benito Mussolini.  Having refused to join the Nazi party in the years between 1937,  Bican took Czech citizenship – he had been playing for Slavia Prague – but the paperwork did not go through quickly enough to allow him to play in France in 1938. But the World Cup argument isn’t the be-all and...

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