The Lost Legend
Árpád Weisz was one of Serie A’s first great coaches. He was also Jewish.
They came for Árpád Weisz, his wife Elena, son Roberto and daughter Clara in the early hours of 2 August 1942. A truck turned into Bethlehemplein, the square in the centre of Dordrecht, a Dutch town of no more than 50,000 inhabitants, and pulled up outside No.10, the house the Weiszes called home. Gestapo officers got out, walked up the steps leading to Weisz’s door and knocked.
The noise roused neighbours from their sleep. Some switched lights on, others peered from behind their curtains. What they were witnessing was to become an all too familiar sight. The Weisz family were loaded into the back of the truck, as other local Jews would be, and driven away. They were gone, never to be seen in Dordrecht again.
Weisz had feared that this day would come. He had desperately hoped that it wouldn’t. But it had long felt like only a matter of time, an inevitability. Nazi Germany had invaded on 10 May 1940. Five days later, following the bombing of Rotterdam and the threat of similar action over Utrecht, the Netherlands surrendered.
The racial laws introduced by the Nazis at the Nuremberg Rally in 1935 — laws which had already led Weisz and his family to leave Italy — were gradually imposed by the Reichskommissariat Niederlande, the occupying government, and its collaborators. This time there really was no escape. Weisz could have paid the price the Nazis were asking for safe passage out of the country, a price that rose from 20,000 to 50,000 then 100,000 Swiss Francs within a year. But it’s thought that, like many, he couldn’t afford to. So the family stayed in Dordrecht and there they were stripped of their rights, one piece of legislation at a time.
Things began to get personal on 29 September 1941. That was the day the local police sent a letter to Weisz’s place of work, DFC Dordrecht, one of the Netherlands’ oldest football clubs. He had been their coach for two and a half years, but that was an end of it. The letter conveyed that, after seeking legal advice on Weisz’s position, it was strongly recommended that DFC Dordrecht not appoint or retain any Jews in their service or else there would be damaging consequences for the club. The decision was ratified less than a month later.
Weisz was prohibited from attending Dordrecht’s games and following their training sessions. The Nazis had made it impossible for him to coach. They had forced the club’s hand. Dordrecht’s chairman, a man by the name of Van Twist, had little option but to relieve Weisz of his duties. He did so with great regret.
No one had achieved the kind of success at Dordrecht as Weisz had, not even Jimmy Hogan, the former Burnley and Fulham inside forward, who, frustrated at a lack of opportunities in England, had become a pioneering coach on the continent, one of the most influential there has ever been. Bottom of Eerste Classe West-II, one of the five regional groups Dutch football was divided into — with the winners of each playing-off to be named national champion — this small-town club was struggling in the spring of 1939. They were in need of a saviour and found one in Weisz.
Just how he came to Dordrecht’s attention isn’t clear. Briefly in Paris and unable to find work, it’s thought that he wrote letters to football associations across Europe seeking opportunities. Perhaps one reached the KNVB. Its future chairman Karel Lotsy — who the journalists Frits Barend and Henk van Dorp would later claim collaborated with the Nazis and excluded Jews from Dutch football — was apparently the one who, on learning of Weisz’s situation, reached out to him on Dordrecht’s behalf, proof perhaps of how complex these times really were.
Lotsy’s horizons were much broader than the Netherlands and it’s possible that he’d heard of this great coach’s achievements already. After a couple of meetings in Paris, thought to have been held in February and March 1939, Lotsy and Weisz struck an agreement. This was an extraordinary coup for Dordrecht. Not that many people outside of football’s then tiny class of international cognoscenti realised it at the time. It was still a small world. Weisz was massively overqualified for the job. But the circumstances in which he found himself gave him little choice but to take it.
With Lotsy apparently acting as his interpreter, Weisz didn’t take long to get his message across to Dordrecht’s players, nor to impress on them that he was something very special and belonged on benches far more prestigious than theirs. Improbably, considering how late in the campaign he was appointed, he ensured they survived. And a year later perennial relegation battlers Dordrecht claimed the scalp of Feyenoord and finished fifth, exploits they’d repeat the following season. It was just incredible.
Weisz had completely transformed Dordrecht. “Some of us began to realise that he must have been a really great coach,” Nico Zwann, one of the team’s players, recalled. His methods were completely new to them, from how he physically prepared the team to his hands-on approach to training and the team meetings he held in a hotel the morning before games to go over strategy. Remember that football in the Netherlands was semi-professional until 1954. Tactically it was decades behind the best of Europe. But for the two years or so that Dordrecht were under Weisz’s guidance, they were ahead of their time within their local context.
The players claimed not to be aware that he was a Jew. It didn’t matter to them. It did, however, to the Nazis. Weisz’s dismissal was sought and obtained. He was replaced by Ferry Triebel and although Van Twist apparently offered Weisz financial support, money alone wasn’t enough to help him out of a situation that was becoming more and more desperate.
His wife Elena had been forced to sew the star of David onto their clothes. His children, Roberto and Clara, were made to leave school. Jews were prohibited from shopping or using public transport between two and five o’clock in the afternoon and a curfew was imposed between 10 at night and six in the morning. The circle around Weisz and his family was closing tight. There was no way out. There was only a fateful knock at the door and a warrant for their arrest.
They were transported to Westerbork — the same transit camp Anne Frank would be held in a couple of years later. Then on 2 October 1942, Weisz and his family were placed on a train to the east. A day later, it pulled into Cosel, one of the sub-camps of Auschwitz and here, a selection was made. Around 300 men were ordered to disembark the train and forced into labour as part of the Nazi war effort. Fit and able, a man of sport, it’s thought that Weisz was among them.
He was separated from his family and must have had to say an unimaginably sad and heartbreaking goodbye. The train that Weisz watched leave Cosel carried onto Auschwitz. Within hours of their arrival, Elena, Roberto and Clara were all killed in the gas chambers. Weisz would survive longer but not long enough to be alive when the Soviet army liberated Auschwitz at the end of January 1945. By then, he’d been dead almost a year. The cold and the exhaustion, it seems, had claimed him.
We know all this because someone had the curiosity to ask what had happened to Weisz and when the answers weren’t forthcoming, resolved to go looking for them himself. That someone was Matteo Marani, the editor of Il Guerin Sportivo, the world’s oldest football magazine.
“‘Do you know Árpád Weisz?’ I repeated in front of tens, maybe even hundreds of bewildered faces,” Marani wrote. “For more than a year, that question accompanied me consistently. The more I came to realise that the story was unknown, however, the more the passion to discover, to excavate it grew. Above all I pushed to bring the final part to light, the part that wasn’t written in the almanacs: his life after football. The end. How had Árpád and his family died?”
What Marani found was to shock him and the readers of From the Scudetto to Auschwitz, the book he wrote which would win Italy’s national prize for literature. How was it possible, he asked, that a figure as influential as Weisz, a man who had made football history in a country where the game is as loved as in Italy, could be forgotten?
“The reality is that, 60 years after his death, all trace of Árpád Weisz had been lost,” Marani explained. “And yet he had won more than anyone of his time, a glorious time in football, conquering Scudetti and trophies... much more than many acclaimed coaches today, coaches who make the front pages every morning and the news in the evening. Could you imagine if one of them were ever to disappear? It happened to Weisz.”
Weisz was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 16 April 1896. He grew up in Solt and would attend law school an hour or so’s drive north in Budapest only for his studies to be interrupted by the First World War. Details are sketchy but it’s been suggested that he was taken prisoner by Italian soldiers during the battle of Caporetto.
After the end of the conflict, Weisz returned to Hungary and, although he held down a job in a bank for a while, football was his calling. Tall, thin, with striking eyebrows and hair that brings to mind the film director David Lynch, he was an outside-left, apparently gazelle-like in his way of bounding up and down the wings for Törekvés and Makkabi Brno, with whom he played alongside Ferenc Hirzer, the first foreign player signed by Juventus following the club’s acquisition by the Agnelli family.
Both were good enough to represent their country. Weisz, for instance, was in the Hungary side that drew 0-0 with Italy in Genoa on 4 March 1923 and it was there that he supposedly came to the attention of directors from Padova. They agreed to sign him a year later after the Olympic Games in Paris. Although Weisz didn’t play in either Hungary’s victory over Poland or their defeat to Egypt in France, just being a part of that squad and sharing the experience with his teammates must have been formative.
One of them was Béla Guttmann, a fellow Jew who, unlike Weisz, would evade the Holocaust and go on to have a long and peripatetic career as a coach, greatly influencing the development of the game in South America and twice winning the European Cup with Benfica. He was a strong personality and led something of a mutiny at the 1924 Olympics. Incensed by the choice of hotel, its location in the noisy Montmartre district and the number of officials sent to accompany them, he led Weisz and the rest of the squad on a rat-catching exercise. They then tied their prey to the door handles of the various officials’ rooms. How much Guttmann and Weisz learned from each other and whether their vision of football was formed over the encounters they had together is unknown but the thought of it captures the imagination as both men would do so much to shape the game over the years that followed.
Soon after the Olympics, Weisz left Hungary and went to Italy to play for Padova. He scored on his debut, against Andrea Doria, but would make only six appearances in the 1924-25 season. Opportunities to prove himself were few and far between.
New to Italy, perhaps for a time Weisz thought that it wasn’t for him. There was a club there, however, that had been founded precisely with players like Weisz in mind — foreign players. They called it Internazionale. Weisz could identify with this team. He fitted in.
But after a promising beginning to his career in blue and black, Weisz was struck by grave misfortune. He suffered an injury from which, at a time when surgery was not sufficiently advanced, there was no coming back. Not yet prepared to hang up his boots but aware that it would be at least a year before he’d be in a condition to attempt to resume his career, it’s been claimed (without great certainty) that Weisz put his time out of the game to good use and went on a sabbatical. His destination was apparently South America. And more specifically, Uruguay.
Why there? Well, perhaps the team he’d watched win the Olympics in Paris had made such an impression on him that he wanted to know more about them. La Celeste were recognised as the best side in international football at the time and would demonstrate it again by winning the 1930 World Cup.
What Weisz did across the Atlantic is shrouded in mystery. There have been suggestions that he made his first tentative steps in coaching in Montevideo with a brief spell at América, a club that no longer exists but, again, reports are unconfirmed.
Faced with the prospect of retirement, it seems fair to assume that he must have been contemplating a move into coaching. And if he weren’t already, he would definitely have done so on his return to Italy when Inter made it clear that they didn’t believe he was capable of playing again. A new chapter of Weisz’s life was about to begin: within it he’d write many of the most important pages in the history of Italian football.
It started with a short apprenticeship as assistant to Alessandria coach Augusto Rangone. For the previous four years, Rangone had also been a member of the Italian federation (FIGC)’s technical commission and, following the failure of the national team at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, he had been concerned with raising the standard. Open to new ideas, it’s thought he held a profound appreciation for the Danubian school.
Indeed, Italy looked to it over the twenties and thirties for inspiration, so much so that by 1935 seven of the 16 clubs in Serie A were coached by Hungarians. It was over this period, for instance, that József Viola became the first coach [followed by Giovanni Trapattoni and Alberto Zaccheroni] to work at each of Italy’s Big Three. As trainers, the Danubians were highly-regarded, a perception that Weisz would enhance.
After a couple of months working as Rangone’s No.2, he went back to Milan to become coach of Inter in the summer of 1926. By then the club was known as Ambrosiana, a name imposed after a merger with the financially more stable US Milanese by the Fascist government in accordance with its diktat against the use of all foreign names and words. Ideologically speaking, Internazionale had socialist connotations that didn’t sit well with the regime. Weisz also had to Italianise his name to Veisz. But whatever the regime wished to call the club and its coach, it wasn’t long before Italians were referring to them by a different title: winners.
In 1930, the inaugural year of Serie A as a single-tier league rather than one divided into regional and inter-regional rounds, Inter were crowned champions of Italy. Weisz became the first foreign coach ever to win the Scudetto and, at 34, the youngest too, an honour he still holds (although many cling to the mistaken belief that the record is held by Trapattoni).
Top of the scoring charts that season for the first time was a player who’d define the era — arguably the greatest Italian footballer of all time — a future double World Cup winner, after whom they’d later rename the stadium. Giuseppe Meazza found the net 31 times. He was only 19.
Weisz had taken a chance on him after he’d been rejected by Ambrosiana’s rivals AC Milan because he was too thin. He bulked Meazza up with steaks paid for by the club and got him training in front of a wall, kicking the ball against it to improve his technique with both feet.
When Fulvio Bernadini, Inter’s striker at the time of Meazza’s emergence, revealed with great tactical awareness that he felt better use could be made of his own skills in midfield, Weisz was all for it. “Now I can play the kid,” he replied. Meazza was given his debut against Como in the Coppa Viola and so began a career in which he’d score 272 goals.
Bernadini was a player who would later develop into a great coach himself. No trainer other than ‘Fuffo’ has ever won a Scudetto with two different teams based outside the traditional centres of power — Milan and Turin: he did it with Fiorentina and Bologna. He’d later acknowledge Weisz’s part in the formation of his ideas on coaching. As would Gipo Viani, another of his players at Inter, who’d become a three-time Scudetto-winning coach at Milan and is credited by many as the father of catenaccio.
Weisz’s contribution to the tactical evolution of football can perhaps be gauged by the reaction to Il Giuoco di Calcio, the book he co-wrote with Aldo Molinari, Inter’s director of sport. It became a reference point among his peers. The preface was written by none other than the commissario tecnico of Italy, Vittorio Pozzo, who remains the only coach to lift the World Cup twice.
His respect for “my two friends, who harmonise their efforts of instructing and guiding Ambrosiana, the most technical of Italian teams” shines through. Weisz was considered someone of the avant garde. His teams played a W-M, the invention pioneered by Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman in the same period. Bearing in mind that there’s no evidence they ever met or saw each other’s teams play, it’s safe to assume that Weisz had the same intuition as to the best way to react to the 1925 change in the offside law.
Other innovations attributed to him include the ritiro, the assembling of the team at a hotel or a training camp the night before a game, which would become a mainstay in Italian football. At Bologna, Weisz would persuade the president Renato dall’Ara to subcontract a Turin-based company, De Bernardi, to maintain the pitch at the Littoriale to his specifications. He’d request that the dressing-rooms be heated and a treatment room established so that a club doctor might perform tests on the players, ascertain their condition, what their potential was and how they might recover from injury.
A moderniser, Weisz was doing the unheard of in Italy and at Bologna he’d achieve the unprecedented.
After leaving Inter in 1931, he took a step down to coach the Serie A debutantes Bari, whom he saved from relegation in a play-off against Brescia. Inter missed Weisz so they brought him back. But the arrangement didn’t last.
Their new president Ferdinando Pozzani — or ‘General Po’, as he was known — was a precursor of the mangia-allenatori (‘coach-eaters’) that would become a feature of the game in Italy. In seven years at Inter, he went through seven different coaches. Pozzani was one of those presidents who liked to interfere. He wanted to have his say on the team’s composition and configuration. And when he had the nerve in 1934 to bring in another coach to work with Weisz, undermining his authority, their relationship came to an end.
Weisz then accepted a post with Novara. They were struggling in Serie B but he managed to turn things around and steered them to fourth place. This was his one experience outside the top-flight. It was only a matter of time, with a reputation like his, before he was offered a chance to be back among the elite.
The spring of 1935 brought with it a call from Bologna. They were an establishment club and had friends in high places, as illustrated by the way they’d become campione d’Italia for the first time a decade earlier, an achievement remembered as the Scudetto delle pistole. At the time Italian football was divided into regional and inter-regional leagues. The winners of the two northern leagues played off with the winners facing the victor of the central-south region in a championship game.
And so Bologna had come up against William Garbutt’s Genoa, the holders. The two teams couldn’t be separated. Bologna won at Marassi and Genoa won at the Sterlino meaning a third play-off was necessary, to be held on neutral ground in Milan. What happened there was scandalous.
Genoa were 2-0 up with half an hour to go. The tie, it seemed, was over. Only it wasn’t. Bologna’s striker Giuseppe Muzzioli forced a save from Genoa’s goalkeeper, the great Giovanni de Prà. It led the referee Giovanni Mauro to signal a corner, which unexpectedly provoked a pitch invasion. From nowhere a number of thugs, supposedly armed and wearing black shirts, descended on to the pitch and surrounded Mauro. He was coerced into thinking that Muzzioli’s shot had crossed the line before De Prà had got to it. To the disbelief of the crowd, Mauro blew his whistle and awarded a goal. Bologna equalised soon afterwards and there was outrage.
Fingers were pointed at Leandro Arpinati, a Bologna fan and local leader of the Fascist squads who’d brought “order” to the left-leaning city after the First World War. He was apparently in the stands that day and it’s supposed that he organised the chaos. If the FIGC’s rules had been followed, then Bologna would have forfeited because of the pitch invasion. Arpinati, however, ensured that they weren’t, practically standing over Mauro’s shoulder as he wrote a report downplaying the incident.
The play-off went to a fourth game, played in Turin. After it ended in another draw, tensions rose further. There was a stand-off between Bologna and Genoa fans at the city’s Porta Nuova station. Shots were fired. Blood was drawn. Two Genoa supporters were hit. As a consequence, Bologna were fined, leading to protests and a campaign against the FIGC.
In the meantime, Turin refused to hold a fifth play-off because of the risks to public order. And so it was decided that it would take place instead on the outskirts of Milan. A date was put in the diary for September and Genoa’s players relaxed. After all, there were supposed to be two months between the games. Except Arpinati somehow heard different. It was to be held on August 5.
Bologna therefore stayed in training and when they met Genoa behind closed doors at seven o’clock that morning on a pitch surrounded by carabinieri on horseback, they were in better shape. It showed. They won 2-0 and went on to claim the championship, beating Alba, one of the capital clubs who’d be fused to form AS Roma in 1927.
Referred to as la stella rubata by Genoa supporters, that Scudetto would have been their 10th and worthy in retrospect of a star, the special commemoration introduced by Juventus president Umberto Agnelli in 1958. Robbed of it, Genoa would never get as close again.
A year later Arpinati became mayor of Bologna — ascending to the office unelected — and would be named president of the FIGC, a position he held not without controversy. When he revoked the Scudetto from Torino in 1927 after they were alleged to have fixed a derby with Juventus, his intention appeared to be to award it to the runners-up, Bologna. He thought better of it, though, and left the title unassigned for fear of being accused of bias.
Although Arpinati left his role with the FIGC in 1933, his presence still loomed over Bologna. The Fascist party, as was their wont, thrust clubs on local businessmen. And so it was that Renato Dall’Ara became president of Bologna in 1934. Deferential but by no means a political puppet, he’d run the club more or less as he saw fit until his death in 1964. Some decisions were beyond his control, but before we get to them, let’s return to Weisz’s appointment.
He replaced a compatriot of his, Lajos Nems Kovács, midway through the 1934-35 campaign, inheriting a difficult situation. Results were initially shaky but he managed to stabilise them and secured a respectable sixth-place finish. Juventus, meanwhile, won their fifth straight Scudetto, a feat that the Grande Torino would repeat between 1943 and 1949 as Inter would between 2005 and 2010. The Old Lady seemed unstoppable. But not to Weisz. Looking at his squad, he dared to dream.
There was Angelo Schiavio, the striker who had scored the winning goal for Italy in the 1934 World Cup final. There was Raffaele Sansone, a quintessential Latin lothario from Uruguay, who’d marry a local waitress but wouldn’t allow himself to be tied down. On the other side of midfield was his compatriot Franciso Fedullo. They were interchangeable, so much so that the pair of mezzale became known as Fedone and Sansullo.
Positioned between them was another man from Montevideo, Michele Andreolo, the regista of Bologna’s play, a real leader. His teammates would follow him everywhere — supposedly even to the brothels around via Indipendenza on nights spent drinking late and playing cards.
At the back, replacing the captain Eraldo Monzeglio, a friend of Benito Mussolini’s who moved to Roma where, when he wasn’t playing, he taught tennis to il Duce’s children, was a kid from the academy, Dino Fiorini. An agile defender, he would involve himself in the National Republican Guard once Italy became engulfed in the Second World War and be killed by partisans in 1944.
It was a team that Weisz, together with Filippo Pascucci, a former gymnastic instructor on cruise liners, took little time to get into shape and into contention. Bologna would leave Juventus in their wake — breaking a cycle — and edge Roma and Torino to the Scudetto, the club’s third and its first for seven years. They clinched the title with a 3-0 win against Triestina, an own-goal from Nereo Rocco, one of the defining managers of the future, bringing jubilation.
In August 1936, Weisz and his players would be granted an audience with Mussolini. It was a photo-opportunity and little else. Still one wonders what Weisz must have been thinking as he stood before the man who during the preceding year had allied himself with Nazi Germany. The regime had begun its spiral into oblivion. Mussolini’s hunger for an empire, the invasion of Abyssinia, the sanctions and pariah status conferred on Italy by the League of Nations, had led him to turn to Adolf Hitler, bringing about an acquiescence with his hate-filled view of the world. Weisz can’t but have noticed that the atmosphere around him was beginning to change.
Perhaps to distract himself, he threw himself into his work. Schiavio, Bologna’s all-time top scorer, retired that summer. His loss, heavy though it was, wouldn’t weaken Weisz’s team. Far from it. They’d long been grooming Carlo Reguzzoni as Schiavio’s successor and he wouldn’t disappoint. Bologna comfortably retained their title, an accomplishment that, prior to them, only Juventus had realised.
At the end of the 1936-37 season, they were invited to participate in the Tournoi International de l’Expo Universelle de Paris. It featured the champions of France, Olympique de Marseille, the Coupe de France winners, Sochaux, the champions of Austria, FK Austria Wien, the champions of Czechoslovakia, Slavia Prague, the DFB Pokal winners, VFB Leipzig, the now defunct Hungarian side FC Phöbus Budapest and Chelsea, admittedly a mid-table team in England, one that had never won a major trophy, but a representative from the revered home of football nonetheless.
The competition was considered a forerunner to the European Cup, which would only come into being in 1955. As such it was treated with the utmost seriousness and Bologna reached the final, knocking out Sochaux and Slavia Prague. Once there, they blew away Chelsea 4-1, Reguzzoni scoring a famous hat-trick. This was a moment of great significance.
Weisz’s Bologna had triumphed on the continent. By doing so, his team became the first side from Italy to defeat an English club in a competitive match. They entered folklore as “the team that shook the world”. A lesson had been given to the masters of football and that lesson had been taught by Weisz. It was the source of huge personal pride, the highlight of his career, the zenith. He deserved recognition as one of the greatest coaches of his time. What he’d achieved, however, would earn him no favours, nor did he ask for any.
After joining the Axis Powers and withdrawing from the League of Nations in late 1937, the Fascist regime in Italy published the Manifesto of Race in the summer of 1938 and began to enact it in the autumn. A census of foreign Jews living in Italy was carried out and printed. Weisz and his family were on it. For a time, it looked as though they wouldn’t have to leave the country. Those foreign Jews who had been resident in Italy prior to 1933 would be permitted to stay. Mussolini, however, amended that in August so that only those resident before 1919 could stay.
The discrimination against the Weiszes began to tell. Roberto had to leave school and his father was compelled to resign from his post at Bologna. His last competitive game in charge was a 2-0 victory over Lazio on 16 October 1938. He had to say goodbye to the country that he’d called home for the previous 15 years or so. The family had been notified of their obligation to leave Italy within six months of 7 September 1938. They had to pack their things, hand over the keys to No.39 via Valeriani and go. They were being deported, cast out. It was the beginning of the end: the starting point of a sorrowful and harrowing journey to Auschwitz via Paris and Dordrecht.
Weisz’s exit was barely commented on in the local papers. There was a line here and there but little else. He was forgotten. Writing in a book to celebrate Bologna’s 90th anniversary in 1999, one of Italy’s most prominent journalists of the last century, Enzo Biagi, a passionate fan of the club, reflected on the team of his teenage years and its coach. “He was called Weisz,” he wrote. “He was very good but also Jewish and who knows what happened to him?”
Marani found out, in part, by consulting the archives of Roberto’s old school. He obtained a list of his former classmates and set about contacting each of them. “Did you know Roberto Weisz?” he asked. One of them answered: “Yes... He was my best friend.” His name was Giovanni Savigni. He’d kept in touch with Roberto after the Weiszes left Bologna, corresponding by letter, as their mothers did too. The last one that Savigni received from Roberto was dated 14 December 1940. It wished him a Happy Christmas.
The rest of their story Marani pieced together by consulting state and municipal archives, those of Yad Vashem, Dordrecht and of course Auschwitz. He became “a detective of memory”, solving the case. But Marani didn’t stop there. He sought recognition for Weisz.
In Bologna’s centenary year, the city put up a plaque at the Stadio Renato dall’Ara commemorating him as “among the greatest coaches and innovators of his time”. Another would be unveiled at San Siro in 2012 and on the occasion of Inter and Bologna’s Coppa Italia quarter-final last season the players walked out wearing T-Shirts on which Weisz’s image was printed. Underneath it was the slogan “No to racism.” It marked how, within Italian football and society as a whole, Weisz has become a powerful symbol for tolerance.
His story is as relevant as ever. It appeals to our humanity and reminds us of the sentiments conveyed in a stanza of the “Canto of Ulysses” from Dante’s Inferno, which Primo Levi, writing in If This is a Man, recalls desperately trying to remember in his effort to teach the assistant Kapo, Pikolo, some Italian while collecting a soup ration in Auschwitz:
Think of your breed; for brutish ignorance
Your mettle was not made; you were made men,
To follow after knowledge and excellence
Commit those words to memory and, with them, the great Árpád Weisz.