- Film & TV
- 27 Apr 22
Belfast's Victory in Vienna: A Footballing Odyssey airs on Monday night.
Presenter Holly Hamilton and author Sam Robinson explore the inspiring story of the 1914 Glentoran football team who won the Vienna Cup in a new documentary, Belfast's Victory in Vienna: A Footballing Odyssey – coming to BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, May 2.
In the months leading up to World War One, the east Belfast team were invited to play in a tournament against Europe’s leading football teams. Most of the Glentoran team – made up of working men with full time jobs in Belfast’s shipyards and engineering works – had never been outside of Ireland before they embarked on this once-in-a-lifetime trip across Europe.
Against all the odds, the 11 men ultimately won the prestigious Vienna Cup, arguably the first European Cup. The trophy survived the journey back to Belfast, and over 100 years later it has pride of place in the Oval board room. In the documentary, Holly and Sam retrace the team’s incredible journey to victory and return to Belfast to meet with some of the team’s descendants.
"Two years ago, following the visit of Gianni Infantino (the president of FIFA, the head of world football) to the Oval, I was asked by the chairman of Glentoran FC, to investigate the story of the Vienna Cup, a trophy won by Glentoran in the Austrian capital in May 1914, two and a half months before the outbreak of WWI," comments Sam Robinson. "Infantino himself suggested the cup should sometime in the future, go on temporary display in the FIFA museum.
"And so I began to dig," he continues. "It is a story often told, but little or no information existed about the circumstances around Glentoran's winning of The Vienna Cup. After an inordinate amount of time spent in investigation (often well into the wee small hours) I struck gold in the National Libraries of Austria, Germany and Hungary.
"The whole story was there. Using Bradshaw's 1913-14 Continental Travel Guide and reports of the journalist Celtic took with them to the region, I plotted the East Belfast men's journey using the train, boat and paddle steamer timetables. I became so engrossed in the whole thing, that I knew Glentoran FC were standing on the jetty of the Radetzky Bridge at 11am on the Sunday after the final game in Vienna waiting to sail the Danube up to Bratislava. What they undertook was insane. The result would become a book published in November 2020 entitled One Saturday before the War."
Robinson ultimately pitched the story to a film production company, who took it to the BBC.
"As a cradle to the grave Glenman, I've thrown my heart and soul at this story and in the watching, it's important to remember that although West Auckland won the Lipton Cup several years before in Europe, they were a team of amateurs and subsequently the cup was then stolen," he remarks. "Glentoran were the first "professional" British team to lift a trophy on European soil. Celtic and Burnley played for another cup during the same tournament, but their bad tempered 1-1 draw in Budapest, a few days before Glentoran took on the finest players in Vienna, meant that their trophy was never presented. It was melted down to help the German war effort.
"These are the views of Guy Oliver, curator of the FIFA museum in Switzerland. Guy maintains that the Vienna Cup is the oldest European football trophy still in existence and that it is the starting point for all the competitions that come afterwards. The Champions League, Europa League et al."
In addition to his work writing about Glentoran FC, Robinson has also collaborated with Ricky Warwick, who has fronted Black Star Riders, Thin Lizzy and The Almighty.
The documentary was filmed by Clean Slate Productions, funded in association with the Ulster Scots Agency, and made in conjunction with Glentoran FC.
Belfast's Victory in Vienna: A Footballing Odyssey airs on BBC One Northern Ireland at 10.40pm
- Film & TV
- 01 Jun 23