Matthias Sindelar

Oliver Postgate died yesterday. Apart from Blue Peter, he wrote everything I saw on television until, when I was at the age of ten, I first saw the evening news. I never cared much for The Clangers but adored Bagpuss, a silly and therefore infinitely wise creature who had overindulged his Good Food Guide when a kitten and contented himself in old age with warming pyjamas and talking to toys.

How Britain contrived, in the twentieth century of all centuries, to allow the likes of Postgate to live and thrive, is worth a book that someone better than me might write one day. Postgate isn’t in Clive James’ magnus opus Cultural Amnesia but would find himself at home there with Stefan Zweig and Georg Clare, both, like him, clever men who knew how to laugh from the belly.

Matthias Sindelar isn’t either. Sindelar was Austria’s greatest player before the Second World War – his playing career was killed by the Anschluss when Postgate was barely in his teens. He’d been one of Jimmy Hogan’s boys in Vienna and should have come to Britain, but there’s no hint that the idea ever crossed his mind.

Compared to 1920s and 1930s England, Austria only ever had a handful of players, but Hogan, Meisl and co. coached them well and the Englishmen weren’t coached at all in any modern sense. 76 years ago last Sunday, Sindelar scored at Stamford Bridge, in an international which England won, but scandalously, 4-3: Austria had passed them to death, but like another beautiful side more recently, were shy in front of goal.

He was dead six years later. If he’d lived, he’d have been 105 now, but instead either committed suicide, died in an accident at home, or was killed by the Gestapo at the age of 35. Darren Anderton’s age.

Accidental death looks the least likely now. It was a killing time, and if he wasn’t murdered, then at best his life was made unbearable. There’s this and this on Youtube to remember him by.