080. Josef Bican
The greatest player in the history of Czech football, Josef Bican was born in Austria and initially found fame at club and international level in Austria. He enjoyed huge success in both the Austrian and Czechoslovak leagues and played for both national teams in a top level career that lasted nearly twenty-five years.
Bican joined Hertha Vienna’s youth team before he was even a teenager, and after spending several years in youth football joined Rapid Vienna in 1931. He stayed with Rapid for four years, and in his final season at the club won his first Austrian Championship medal. He also played for Austria in the 1934 World Cup, as they reached the semi-final.
Moving on to Admira Vienna, Bican won two more league titles in just two years at the club before leaving for Czechoslovakia in 1937. Joining Slavia Prague, he would have played in the 1938 World Cup for his new country but for a mix-up over his new passport. In eleven years with Slavia, Bican scored goals at a quite astonishing rate. He won one official and one unofficial Czechoslovakian title, as well as three wartime titles in the Bohemian & Moravian League, and was also the leading scorer in these leagues a total of ten times. In all, he scored more than 500 goals for Slavia.
After electing to stay in Prague rather than move to Italy, Bican found himself in trouble with the new Communist regime by 1948 and in an attempt to improve his standing with the authorities he joined Vítkovické Železárny. He spent three seasons at Vítkovické, finishing as leading scorer again in 1950, before moving on to Hradec Králové. In 1953 Bican again found himself in trouble with the authorities and had to leave Králové, returning to Slavia Prague (then known as Dynamo Prague) for a four year second spell as a player, which also saw the start of his coaching career.
After leaving Slavia in 1956, Bican moved around several clubs in Czechoslovakia as a coach, including Vitkovice and Králové. In 1968, he left Czechoslovakia to coach Tongeren in Belgium. Following his retirement, Bican remained one of the most popular figures in Czech football, his goalscoring achievements of the 1940s unlikely to be matched. He died in 2001, at the age of 88.