The making of the 1934 poster
FIFA World Football Museum
COPPA DEL DUCE The tournaments held before the war presented delicate narrative dilemmas. Though the museum was to be geared towards light entertainment turning a blind eye to the deeply disturbing state of the world outside the pitch would have been downright shameful! Delivered posters had to have moral fiber. Showing violence and persecution flat out was not possible. Instead the 1934 poster is loaded with symbols.
The bombastic Mussolini regime did not care much for the tiny trophy handed out by FIFA and also presented the winner with a monstrosity named Coppa del Duce. The design clearly demonstrates the concept of state rule and indifference towards civil rights. A heap of players without individual features crumble under a cup decorated with fascist symbols. The vulgarity is further underlined by the sheer size of the edifice — six times the size of the FIFA trophy. The Coppa del Duce proved a valuable asset in depicting the nature of the 1934 World Cup. With several other symbols and logos the presence of the totalitarian regime is evident.
MATTIAS SINDELAR A poster littered with totalitarian symbols alone didn´t make for a sound narrative. The design needed a point of reference and a voice of reason. Key to making the 1934 poster work was the introduction of a portrait of the Austrian captain and star player Mattias Sindelar known as “The Mozart of Football”. Through a combination of facts and myths he has over time become a symbol of civil values alternative to fascist ones.
Sindelar never made a secret of his Social Democratic leanings and he was opposed to the Anschluss. He is also famously known for having mocked the nazis during a “reconciliation match” between the annexed Austria and Germany held shortly after the Anschluss. The Austrians played in accordance with Sindelar´s wish in red-white-red kits - the colours of the Austrian flag. After the winning goal Sindelar is reported to have celebrated extravagantly in front of senior Nazi dignitaries. In August 1938, Sindelar bought a café from a jewish owner forced to give it up under the new nazi legislation. Unlike many Sindelar did not exploit the situation and paid a very fair DM20,000 for the establishment. His reluctance to put up Nazi posters in the café brought him difficulties and although he was not an out-and-out dissident, the Gestapo kept him under surveillance.
On January 23 1939 Mattias Sindelar and his girlfriend Camilla Castignola were found dead in Vienna. Their deaths have since then been surrounded by all kinds of rumours. Sindelar looking with sad eyes straight towards the viewer from behind the glittering fasade, is the core of the 1934 layout. The portrait is a hint of the lost human decency that led to industrial-scale slaughters in the 1940’s.
TWO SKETCHES The one on the left with a heartless looking Mussolini’s ventured too far into politics and was (wisely so) refused by FIFA. The sketch on the right with Italian coach Vittorio Pozzo replacing the dictator worked better as it kept a more stringent focus on the game. Pozzo’s distinct hairstyle opened up for a further development of the horizontal lines found in the portrait of Sindelar. The use of bold linear shapes is common in 1930’s design so not only did the approach provide well defined display areas it also helped ground the poster in the times it set out to depict.