Austria may not have a very strong presence in international football competitions, but the sport is highly popular in the country. Football is one of the oldest competitive sports being played in Austria, and its residents reminisce about the old times when the Austrian football team was dominant in international competitions.
However, this has not deterred the locals from loving football any less today, and you will find it amongst the top sports played as a recreational activity in the country.
If you are curious to learn more, continue reading as we offer a guide to football in Austria, including its history, evolution, and current status.
History of Football in Austria
Football was introduced to Austria at the end of the nineteenth century and played informally for the next decade or so. In 1900, a competition was introduced in Vienna titled Neus Wiener Tagblatt Pokal, which paved the way for formal football matches in the country. The Austrian Football Association was formed in 1904 and became a member of FIFA in the following year.
The first football league was formed seven years later and was granted professional status in 1924. The national football team first garnered attention in the 1930s when it defeated Scotland and later went on to win the Central European International Cup. The team also finished in fourth place in the World Cup in 1934 and bagged a silver medal at the Olympics two years later.
The following year, National Liga was introduced as the second division to create a formal hierarchy system at the domestic level and improve the quality of competition. During the latter part of the decade, when the Nazis took over, professional sports were restricted, and many teams were banned.
This led to the deterioration in the quality of sports as many teams could not play, and the leagues were either merged or reformed. An amateur league, the Gauliga Ostmark, was formed, which included teams from almost all states, while the remaining states were allocated to the Bavarian League.
Reorganisation efforts began in 1949, and all Austrian teams came together to form a league. However, it was a challenging task to get the teams organised, and conflicts within the leagues made the task even more difficult. The current premier league, the Bundesliga, was formed in 1974, while the National Liga was formed as the second division.
The Austrian Football Association did not become a member of UEFA until 1954. Today, it is responsible for overseeing the affairs of the men’s and women’s national football teams and domestic competitions and leagues in the country.
Austrian National Football team
The Austrian men’s national football team has been playing internationally since 1902, when it first played against Hungary in Vienna and won the game.
Although the team has not been able to qualify for the world cup since 1998, it has participated in the final competition seven times in the past. The best performance to date is when it secured third place in 1954.
The team did not qualify for the European Championship until 2016. However, in 2008, Austria co-hosted the event with Switzerland and participated by default as it was one of the hosts.
There was a time when the team was known as the Wunderteam, as it displayed an impressive performance in various competitions despite being a new entrant. This included the Olympics and the World Cup. The team is presently in 34th place in the FIFA rankings.
The national women’s football team is currently in 19th place in the FIFA rankings. It has been playing internationally since 1970 and has played twice in the European Championship. The first time the women’s team qualified for the European Championship was in 2017 when it reached the semi-finals.
Domestic Football Competitions in Austria
While many Austrians like to watch the more significant football leagues from Europe, local leagues are very popular in the country. These leagues offer expatriates a unique opportunity to enjoy the experience of Austrian sports. The oldest football team in Austria is the First Vienna VC, the 1943 German Cup Champion.
Presently, the top football league in the country is the Bundesliga, and it has twelve teams, of which the most successful team is the Rapid Wien. The Bundesliga follows a promotion and relegation system with the Second Division or 2 Liga, which has sixteen teams.
At the third level, there are regional leagues which are divided into three categories according to their regions; east, west, and central. At the fourth level of the pyramid, the leagues are categorised according to their states.
The women’s football league structure in Austria has three levels. The top league is the Frauenliga which has ten teams. It follows a relegation and promotion system with the 2 Frauenliga, the second-highest women’s league in the country.