Ernst Happel

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameErnst Franz Hermann•Happel
Used nameErnst•Happel
Born29 November 1925 in Wien (Vienna), Wien (AUT)
Died14 November 1992 in Innsbruck, Tirol (AUT)
AffiliationsSK Rapid, Wien (AUT)
NOC Austria


Defender Ernst Happel was a member of the Austrian football team at the 1948 London Olympics. They lost their first-round match 3-0 to the eventual gold medallists Sweden. In total, in an 11-year international career he won 51 caps and scored five goals. As a player, his greatest moment came in 1954 when Austria finished third at the FIFA World Cup behind Germany and Hungary, after beating Uruguay in the third-place match 3-1. He also participated in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden where Austria was eliminated from their heavy group, won by Brazil, that also contained the Soviet Union and England.

At club level, Happel played with SK Rapid Wien (Vienna) between 1942-59 and had one season (1955-56) with RC Paris in France. He helped Rapid win the Austrian Championship in 1946, 1948, 1951-52, 1954, and 1957, and the Austrian Cup in 1946.

However, Happel went on to become better known as a coach, and was regarded as one of the greatest of all time. He started his coaching career in the Netherlands with ADO Den Haag (1962-69) and Feyenoord Rotterdam (1969-73) before moving to Spain with FC Sevilla (1973-74) and then to Belgium’s FC Brügge (1975-78). Happel then took over as chief national coach of the Netherlands in 1978.

A return to domestic football saw Happel take over the post at Belgian clubs KRC Harelbeke in 1979, and Standard Lüttich 1979-81. In 1981 he moved to Hamburger SV in the German Bundesliga, staying until 1987. He then returned to Austria coaching FC Swarovski Tirol (1987-91), and finally the Austrian national team, until his death in 1992.

As a chief coach Happel had an unenviable level of success. He won a Dutch title with Feyenoord Rotterdam (1971), Belgian titles with FC Brügge (1976-78), German titles with Hamburger SV (1982-83), and Austrian titles with FC Tirol (1989-90). He also won the Dutch Cup with Den Haag (1968), Belgian Cup with Brügge (1977), German Cup with Hamburg (1987), and Austrian Cup with Tirol (1989).

At international club level, Happel became the first coach to win the European Champions Cup/Champions League with two different clubs, Feyenoord Rotterdam (1970) and Hamburger SV (1983). He also won the Intercontinental Cup with Rotterdam in 1970. As an international team coach, Happel was FIFA World Cup runner-up with the Netherlands in 1978, when Argentina won the final 3-1 in extra time.

Happel was a heavy smoker and died from lung cancer in 1992. After his death, Austria’s largest and most important stadium, the Prater Stadium in Wien (Vienna), was renamed the Ernst Happel Stadium. Happel reached the greatest popularity ever in Austria as football player and coach.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1948 Summer Olympics Football (Football) AUT Ernst Happel
Football, Men (Olympic) Austria =9