In March 1938 everything changed. The Vienna as Sindelar had always new it, one built around the coffee shops and intense philosophical debates, was dead.
A culture which had had such a beautiful symbiotic relationship with the footballer, the on-pitch embodiment of Vienna’s bohemian, free thinking, free spirited ethos, was wiped out overnight.
In March 1938 Hitler’s forces drove into Austria.
It was decided the Austrian national team that Sindelar had led so exceptionally in the preceding decade would cease to exist, its players were to be absorbed into a new German side
To celebrate the ‘Anschluss’ (annexation of Austria) Austria were to play one last game, a friendly against Germany on the 3rd April 1938, less than a month after the invasion.
As the match began Sindelar reportedly played fairly well, dancing between slower German defenders and linking with teammates nicely but, notably, none of his normally relatable shots were finding the back of the net. Instead Sindelar kept rolling the ball narrowly wide of the German goalposts. To some of his staunchest disciples this was a clear attempt at mockery by the slight Austrian. Cutting through the Germans with ease before having the control to place the ball just wide.
It is also unfathomable to think that the Nazis, obsessed with shows of strength as they were, would have appreciated a loss to the Austrians. Perhaps it was this that was lingering in the back of the great man’s mind.
Either way in the second half something changed for Sindelar, he played with a joy and a freedom that even those who had watched him play for the national team and with Austria Vienna for years noted as remarkable. He toyed with the Germans and after 70 minutes he once again found space in the German defence before scoring impudently tapping the ball into the German net after a blocked shot. Minutes later Austria had added a second, courtesy of Schasti Sesta free kick.
The Austrian crowd were jubilant and Sindelar, perhaps swept away in the moment performed a victory dance in front of the Nazi VIP box containing a number of high ranking officials.
It would be his last action as a footballer.