by Tom Stewart
Born: Vienna, 25/9/13 (Died 12/12/01)
Clubs: Rapid Vienna, Admira, Slavia Prague, FC Vitkovice, FC Hradec Kralove, Dynamo Prague
International: Austria (56 caps, 57 goals), Czechoslovakia (18 caps, 19 goals)
Josef Bican is widely reported to be the most prolific goalscorer of all time, with respected football statistics page RSSSF estimating that he scored over 800 competitive goals.
Born into poverty, Bican started playing football without shoes, which he said helped to hone his ball skills. Aged 18 he was spotted by Rapid Vienna, earning himself a 150 schillings pay day. Whilst at Vienna it is estimated that he scored 242 goals in 172 games. He could also run 100m in 10.8 seconds, faster than most sprinters at the time.
After Nazi invasion of Austria, Bican fled to Czechoslovakia and joined Slavia Prague. It is here that he really made his name. In one season he scored a bordering on the unbelievable 57 goals in 24 games. It is estimated that in his 8 league seasons he scored somewhere between 300 and 800 goals.
After Czechoslovakia was devastated after World War II, a number of top European clubs were after the goal machine, including Italian giants Juventus. Despite being offered handsome terms he declined, as he was tipped off that Communists may take control of Italy (ironically they didn’t but did in Czechoslovakia). Just like he did in Austria with the Nazi party, he refused to join the Communist party in Czechoslovakia, but did compromise by joining steel works club, Vitkovice (71 games, 96 goals). He later joined Hradec Kralove, where during the May Day rally, the Communist party leaders were enraged when the people were chanting for Bican rather than the president. They fired him and forced him to leave the city. On the way to the train station he was stopped by several workers, who asked him where he was going and if there was a problem, he replied that there was no problem. It was later revealed that the workers would have gone on strike if they had found out that Bican was leaving, and he would have been arrested and possibly jailed for 20 years for starting a strike.
He returned to Slavia Prague, now named Dynamo, where he scored 81 goals in 74 games, before retiring aged 42.
At international level he was part of the mighty Austrian Wunderteam, playing in the 1934 where they went out to a Mussolini entertained referee inspired Italy (there are reports of the referee even heading the ball to Italian players). For Austria he scored 57 goals in 56 games.
After leaving Austria he applied for Czech citizenship, but an admin error meant he could not play in the 1938 World Cup. Despite scoring 19 goals in 18 games for the Czechs he was unpopular with his team mates, who were jealous of his ability and dashing good looks. They would often call him “Austrian Bastard” (nicknames were a lot more literal back then).
It is unknown exactly how many goals Bican scored in his lifetime, but it is estimated that it is somewhere between 800 and 1200, making him the most prolific goalscorer of all time.