A view of the still uncovered Praterstadion, circa 1968, in the Austrian capital city of Vienna; although the foundation had first been laid forty years earlier in 1928, by this time, four years after hosting its first European Cup Final in 1964, the Leopoldstadt district football arena had already undergone two major renovations. (DPA photo)
Ever since its construction, the PRATERSTADION — now known as the ERNST HAPPEL STADION — situated in the Leopoldstadt district of the Austrian capital city of Vienna has always been among the premier sporting arenas in all of Europe, if not the world.
The ground-breaking ceremony in November of 1928 was timed to conicide with the 10th Anniversary of the fledgling Republic of Austria. The athletic complex, designed by German architect OTTO ERNST SCHWEIZER, was completed in 23 months with the goal of hosting the second Workers’ Olympiad and included a velodrome as well as the Stadionbad with the largest swimming pool on the continent. Upon opening and completion of its first major event, the facility was hailed as one of the most magnificent and modern in all of Europe.
The Praterstadion was originally built to accomodate a capacity crowd of 60,000 spectators with the first ever football match being a contest between the Workers’ Selects of Vienna battling the Workers’ Selects of Lower Austria on July 11, 1931.
The inaugural international football match will always command a special place in the history of Austrian football.
The early 1930s marked the era of the so-called “WUNDERTEAM” loaded with star players such as the “Mozart of Football”, captain MATTHIAS SINDELAR. Austria, managed by HUGO MEISL, were in the midst of an impressive 14-game unbeaten streak and had recently handed Scotland its first-ever defeat on the continent of Europe. A meeting with Austria’s most natural rival was arranged for the national team’s first-ever match at the Praterstadion.
On September 13, 1931, neighboring Germany arrived at Vienna’s newest stadium and were dutifully plastered 5-0 in front of a delighted audience of 50,000 fans.