During the summer of 1964, Sliema Wanderers caused a stir in local football circles after announcing that they had engaged Janos Bedl as player-coach for the new season.
Bedl was born on September 10, 1929.
On applying for the Sliema job, Bedl gave the impression that he had a career behind him as a professional footballer. However, from research I made, it seems that he did not play as a professional but maybe as an amateur in his native Hungary.
Bedl was a flop as a footballer. He probably was way past his prime when he came to Malta but as a coach he was a great success.
Everyone was anxious to see Sliema’s new Hungarian import and there was a lot of enthusiasm when the Wanderers played Dinamo Bucharest in the Champions Cup on Sunday, September 14, 196.
Sliema prepared well for the encounter. Since Dinamo Bucharest were more or less unknown in Malta, the Blues had high hopes of further enhancing their reputation against foreign teams with another positive result.
The Sliema side of the Stadium was decorated for the occasion. Fireworks were let off as the Blues, sporting a handsome new outfit, trooped out of their dressing room.
Unfortunately, it only turned out to be an illusion as the fans’ enthusiasm failed to inspire the Wanderers.
The game was barely four minutes old when Dinamo silenced the crowd with the first goal of the afternoon. Such an early setback inevitably demoralised the Blues who lost their poise and confidence which had made them worthy champions the previous season.
Sliema disappointed their supporters.
The Blues had a fine team in those days and fully deserved the title of champions. Yet, against the Romanian side they put on a poor showing.
Their best players had an off-day but the biggest disappointment was Bedl.
I remember going to the Stadium just to see him play.
Foreign players were scarce in Maltese football in those days and there was a lot of hype about Bedl’s signing.
He had such a poor debut that Sliema relieved him of his playing duties. They kept him on as a coach, however, and they did not regret it.
Under Bedl’s guidance, Sliema developed into the best team on the island, winning the biggest share of domestic honours during his spell at the club.
Bedl introduced Sliema to the new 4-2-4 system which, in those days, was very much in vogue in Europe. It was apparent, however, that in the game against Dinamo, the players were not familiar with the system and most seemed bewildered by their new roles.
Yet, once Sliema got used to the new approach, there was no stopping them and in 1964-65 they dominated the season.
With Bedl at the helm, the Blues retained the league championship and added the FA Trophy, Testaferrata Cup and Independence Cup for good measure.
In 1965-66, the Blues continued where they left off the previous season. Bedl shaped and honed the team to perfection.
In a season full of trouble and controversies, the Blues retained the championship for the third year running and won the Scicluna Cup and the MFA League – a competition designed to select Malta’s representatives for the Fair’s Cities Cup.
In 1966, Bedl was put in charge of the Maltese national team but, after a couple of matches, he was relieved of his post.
Bedl started the 1966-67 season with the Wanderers but left after a few weeks to manage Pittsburgh Phantoms in the North American Football League.
After that, Bedl made headway in his coaching career. Between 1968 and 1977, he managed Kansas City Spurs, Rot-Weiss Essen, Lierse SK, Borussia Dortmund, Wuppertaler SV Borussia and Lierse SK.
Bedl died on December 9, 1987 aged 58.
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