Milim 2018

Words for All
Leeds Literary Festival 2018

The Greatest Comeback

Author David Bolchover talks about his latest book

The remarkable story of Béla Guttmann, the first superstar football coach

David Bolchover is an author and commentator. His latest book, The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide to Football Glory, is a biography of the legendary football coach Béla Guttmann. The title was shortlisted for the 2017 William Hill Sports Book of the Year. David has also published three high-profile business books, including the best-selling The 90-Minute Manager, and has written opinion columns for a number of leading newspapers, including The TimesThe Telegraph and The Financial Times. He has appeared frequently on the BBC, Sky and other broadcast outlets.

Béla Guttmann was the first superstar football coach, achieving great success in Europe and South America before Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho were even born. He was also a Holocaust survivor. In 1944, he hid in an attic near Budapest as thousands of fellow Jews in the vicinity were being deported to Auschwitz. He then escaped from a brutal slave labour camp. His father, sister and wider family perished at the hands of the Nazis. But by the early 1960s, Guttmann had completed the most remarkable turnaround, twice winning the European Cup as coach of Benfica of Lisbon.

In this talk, David Bolchover will trace Guttmann’s background and extraordinary career, and discuss some broader themes thrown up by his recent book The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide to Football Glory. For example, why was so little known until now about the Holocaust experiences of one of football’s most celebrated figures? How does the Guttmann story contradict commonly held myths about the Holocaust? Why is there so little recognition of the massive contribution of European Jews to football before the Holocaust?