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Pál Csernai
Personal information
Date of birth October 21, 1932 (1932-10-21) (age 77)
Place of birth    Pilis, Hungary
Playing position Midfielder
Senior career1
Years Club App (Gls)*

Csepel SC
Karlsruher SC
Stuttgarter Kickers
National team
1955 Hungary 2 (0)
Teams managed

Wacker 04 Berlin
SSV Reutlingen
Royal Antwerp FC
North Baden FA
FC Bayern Munich
Borussia Dortmund
Fenerbahçe SK
Eintracht Frankfurt
BSC Young Boys
Hertha BSC
FC Sopron
North Korea

1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

Pál Csernai (born 21 October 1932) was a Hungarian football (soccer) player and coach. As a player he was denied great successes, but as a coach he revived the fortunes of Bayern Munich in the early 1980s after the end of their golden era.


The Player

His family were Szekely from Transylvania according to his surname, which meaning "Came from Cserna (now Cerne, Romania)". Not many details of his achievements are known (→ talk:Pál Csernai). He played in Hungary's first division, with Csepel SC from Budapest and was reasonably good. After all, in 1955 he was called twice to play for his country, and that was still in the era of the all-dominating Magic Magyars.

Like so many other greats of the game in this era, he left Hungary as a consequence of the uprising in 1956. He ended up playing in Germany where joined 1956 Karlsruher SC, then in the first division. From 1959 to 1965 he played for Stuttgarter Kickers in the second division. In 1962 Csernai scored a decisive goal for the club, preventing them from being relegated to the third tier.

The Coach

In 1967 he acquired his coaching diploma under Hennes Weisweiler in Cologne. A year later, in 1968 he coaches Wacker 04 Berlin in the West-Berlin division of the second tier of German football in those days. In his two years at the helm there the team finishes on places 4 and 5. Afterwards he coaches SSV Reutlingen in the southern division, which under him finishes 15th. The years before and after Reutlingen were 11th and 10th, respectively.

From 1971 to 1972 he coaches first division side Royal Antwerp FC in Belgium, but finds himself prematurely replaced by Eddy Wauters.

After this excursion he returns to Germany and in 1973 is appointed coach of the North Baden Football Association in southwest Germany, where he stayed for the next four years. He also could celebrate his first success as coach there when he led the selection of the association to a victory in the Amateur States' Cup of 1973. This cup is basically a competition between the amateur sides of the German regional associations, mostly composed of players from the third divisions, the highest amateur level.

By 1 July 1977 he takes on a position of assistant to coach Gyula Lóránt with Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt, Lóránt was another former Hungarian international and was part of the side that lost the 1954 FIFA World Cup final in Berne, This was by no means a particularly glamorous appointment. The team, known as "capricious diva", was in those days always a contender for one of the first places in the league, but perennially disappointed. Lóránt did not have a particular fabulous image either, having never achieved any extraordinary successes. The range of clubs he had coached were all on the mediocre end at very best. A fifth place with 1.FC Kaiserslautern in 1967 was his top result.


Bayern Munich

Lóránt had been with Frankfurt only since November 1976. By November 1977 this appointment was over again. On 26 November Frankfurt defeats Bayern Munich 4-0. At that stage Bayern are on a relegation rank and Frankfurt 8th. Frankfurt and Bayern decided to enter into a pretty unusual manoeuvre and swap coaches. The football sage Dettmar Cramer moved to Frankfurt and the robust Lóránt and his assistant found themselves in the Bavarian capital. The season ends with Bayern as 12th, their worst Bundesliga placing hitherto, and Frankfurt 7th.

With the beginning of the new season Paul Breitner rejoins Bayern, which then had a reasonably impressive line up with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Branko Oblak, Klaus Augenthaler and other notable players. Bayern was desperate to return to the top as their last championship dated back to 1974. Lóránt introduced the spatial defence to replace the marker system, which by then turned obsolete. By the end of the first half series Lóránt was fired. He had an image problem since he, amongst other issues, manhandled a TV team. When a 1-7 defeat in Düsseldorf was followed up with a home defeat to Hamburger SV his days were numbered.

For the time being Csernai was to run the team. President Wilhelm Neudecker wanted to replace him with Max Merkel, who was rejected by the team that considered him a too tough taskmaster. This resulted in a unanimous vote by the players who wanted Csernai to take over. The whole affair caused tremendous publicity. In the end Neudecker resigned and Pál Csernai became officially anointed as the new head coach. By the end of the season Bayern defeated the new champions Hamburg on their turf and finished fourth. The Bayern legend Gerd Müller left the club already in the course of the season after Csernai replaced him in the match in Frankfurt.

With the beginning of the new season another Bayern legend, goalkeeper Sepp Maier had to end his career because of an accident, and the 1974 World Cup winner Georg Schwarzenbeck was generally unavailable due to injuries, Oblak retired from the big stage. Csernai took the opportunity to restructure the team and its hierarchies, and refined the spatial defence, then colloquially known as "Pal System". Most importantly he formed of midfield conductor Paul Breitner and forward Karl-Heinz Rummenigge one of the great duos in footballing history. The team became commonly referred to as "FC Breitnigge". The highly gifted dribbler Rummenigge learned in this phase also to score and should become three times the league's top striker in this era.

By the end of his first full season at the reins of Bayern the club was German champion for the first time in six years, just two years after Csernai started his Bundesliga career as assistant in Frankfurt. He also led the club into the - in that season all German - semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, but Frankfurt prevailed on aggregate with 5-3 and ended up winning the trophy.

1980/81 Csernai, by then known for wearing silk scarves instead of ties, managed to defend the championship and once more enter a European semi-final. There Bayern had to give in to eventual winners Liverpool FC on away goals. A year later Bayern had to make do with the German Cup, as Hamburg under the legendary Austrian coach Ernst Happel took the championship honours. On the European stage Bayern made it all the way to the final of the Champions Cup. Bayern played generally superior, but in the end a single goal by Peter Withe secured the title for Aston Villa FC.

In the next season Bayern fell behind in the championship end exited early from the cup. In European competition Bayern again was only stopped by the later winner, this time by Aberdeen FC under Alex Ferguson in the quarterfinals of the Cup Winners' Cup. To boot, Pál Csernai had by then acquired a major publicity problem. When his widely perceived arrogance also put off the major sponsors of the club he was given his marching orders and Udo Lattek returned to Bayern.

Odyssey of a Coach

Pál Csernai became coach of PAOK Thessaloniki. Already in the second round of the UEFA Cup he met his old team Bayern again. Both matches ended 0-0 and it came to a dramatic penalty shoot-out in which Bayern eventually prevailed 9-8. Bayern was ousted in the next round - by the eventual winners, this time Tottenham Hotspur. Csernai ended this season again without title. After only one year he moved on to SL Benfica.

There Benfica grabbed the Portuguese cup with a 3-1 win against FC Porto. Csernai was highly unpopular with his players and for all practical purposes stripped of his powers by the time of the final for which the line-up was determined by senior players Carlos Manuel and Pietra. His tenure ended after this also officially.

In the next years he would coach Borussia Dortmund, Fenerbahçe SK in Istanbul, Eintracht Frankfurt, BSC Young Boys in Switzerland, and Hertha BSC. None of these tenures lasted through a whole season. In Dortmund he got close, being replaced only two matchdays before the end of the season, which the team finished 16th. Others ended up being were very short, eg., in Frankfurt nine matchdays, and in Berlin even only six league matches.

Later he worked with the national team of North Korea for the qualification for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, an endeavour that ended without success. His last assignment was in his home country to coach first division side EMDSZ-SLC.

Career Overview

Coaching Career
Period Team Titles
1968-1970 Germany Wacker 04 Berlin
1970-1971 Germany SSV Reutlingen
1971-1972 Belgium Royal Antwerp FC
1973-1977 Germany North Baden Football Assoc. 1973 - States' Amateur Cup
1977-1978 Assistant coach to Gyula Lóránt with
Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern Munich
1978-1983 Germany FC Bayern Munich 1980 - Championship
1981 - Cup
1981 - Championship
1983-1984 Greece PAOK Thessaloniki
1984-1985 Portugal SL Benfica 1985 - Cup
1985-1986 Germany Borussia Dortmund
1987-1988 Turkey Fenerbahçe SK Istanbul
1988-1988 Germany Eintracht Frankfurt
1990-1990 Switzerland BSC Young Boys Berne
1990-1991 Germany Hertha BSC
1993-1994 North Korea North Korea
1994-1995 Hungary EMDSZ-SLC

External links

Preceded by
Portugal José Maria Pedroto
Cup of Portugal Winning Coach
Succeeded by
England John Mortimore


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