Karl Rappan

Karl Rappan (September 26, 1905 – January 2, 1996) was an Austrian footballer and coach. He played and managed mostly in Switzerland, where he won multiple titles. He had four tenures as coach of the Swiss national team, which he managed in three World Cups, and is the all-time leader in matches won as coach of the Swiss team. He introduced a major football strategy known as the "bolt", which gave origin to the catenaccio system. He also helped create the UEFA Intertoto Cup.

Karl Rappan
Karl Rappan (1969).jpg
Personal information
Full name Karl Rappan
Date of birth (1905-09-26)September 26, 1905
Place of birth Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Date of death January 2, 1996(1996-01-02) (aged 90)
Place of death Bern, Switzerland
Playing position(s) Half, forward
Youth career
1922–1924 SV Donau Wien
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1924–1928 SC Wacker Vienna
1928–1929 Austria Wien
1929–1930 Rapid Wien 6 (2)
1931–1935 Servette FC
National team
1927 Austria 2 (1)
Teams managed
1931–1935 Servette (player-coach)
1935–1948 Grasshopper
1948–1957 Servette
1958–1959 FC Zürich
1964–1968 Lausanne-Sports
1970–1971 Rapid Wien (technical director)
1937–1938 Switzerland
1942–1949 Switzerland
1953–1954 Switzerland
1960–1963 Switzerland
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Playing careerEdit

Rappan, born in Vienna, played as a half and forward.[1] As a teenager, he played for the club Donau Wien. In 1924, he joined Wacker Vienna, where he played four years. He was selected to the Austria national team in while at Wacker. He then played one season at each of the clubs FK Austria Wien and Rapid Wien, winning the 1929/30 Austrian league with the latter. Rappan then moved to Switzerland, where he started playing for Servette FC in 1931, becoming a player-coach until his retirement as a player in 1935, and winning the Swiss league twice with the club, in 1933 and 1934.

In 1927, he was capped twice for the Austria national team, scoring one goal,[2] against Hungary in a 6-0 win.[3]

Coaching careerEdit

Rappan spent almost all of his managerial career – which extended from 1932 to 1963 – coaching Swiss teams and the Swiss national team. After his role as player-coach at Servette, Rappan became a full-time coach and joined Grasshopper-Club, managing the Zürich club from 1935 to 1948, and winning 5 domestic league titles and 7 cups. In 1948, he returned to Servette for a second period at the club, now as coach only. He remained there until 1957, adding one more league title and one cup to his palmares.

After Servette, Rappan had a one-season spell at FC Zürich. From 1960 to 1963, he coached the Swiss national team exclusively, and after this last period in charge of the national squad, he joined club Lausanne-Sports, being their coach from 1964 to 1968, and winning one league title in 1965. After almost four decades of service in Swiss football, he returned to Austria to be the technical director of Rapid Wien – his former club as a player – for the 1969/70 season.[2]

The "bolt"Edit

During the early 1930s, when the use of the "WM" system was spreading, Rappan developed a tactical system under which players switched positions and duties depending on the game's pattern.[4] The system varied largely from the classic 2-3-5 formation and the WM, focusing in defense. The team would fold back into its own half and wait for the opponent's attack, conceding possession of the midfield. The system received the name of verrou or "bolt". It has also been called "Swiss bolt". Reportedly, Rappan looked for a system that was less rigid and less dependent on individual talent than the WM. It relied on collective work, and gave the amateurs of the time a chance to compensate to some extent for their lack of skill.[5] The defensive strategy of the bolt relied on a mixture of zonal and man-marking. It was the first system to play four players in defense, using one of them as a "security bolt" supporting the other three.[4] It is acknowledged that the bolt largely influenced the catenaccio (Italian for bolt) and its use of the libero (sweeper) in defense.

Rappan's system was never fully understood by many people at the time, and the coach himself never discussed it, keeping a certain mystery around it. It received both praise and criticism. The system did demonstrate to be successful at the 1938 World Cup. Switzerland eliminated the Germany national football team in the first round, where the match that ended in a 1-1 draw was replayed, with the Swiss winning the second match 4-2. Two weeks prior to the World Cup, Switzerland had defeated England in a friendly match.

Switzerland national teamEdit

Rappan had four different tenures as head coach of the Switzerland national team: 1937 to 1938, 1942 to 1949, 1953 to 1954, and 1960 to 1963. He managed Switzerland in 77 international matches, the most ever by any Swiss team coach. He won 29 matches, also a record, and lost 36 times, second-most all-time.[6][7]

With Rappan as its coach, Switzerland qualified to the World Cups of 1938, 1954 (where they beat Italy and lost 5-7 to Austria in quarterfinals), and 1962. Rappan recorded 3 wins, 1 draw, and 6 losses as a coach in World Cup finals tournaments.

His last match as Switzerland's coach was on November 11, 1963 against France in Paris, a 2-2 draw.

After retirementEdit

Rappan, who had the idea of creating a European league, helped Ernst Thommen, the Managing Director for the Swiss Football Pool, conceive the UEFA Intertoto Cup, which started in 1961.[8][9]

Rappan died on January 2, 1996 in Berne.


As a player

  • Rapid Wien
    • 1929/30 Austrian league champion
  • Servette FC
    • 1933 Swiss league champion
    • 1934 Swiss league champion

As coach

  • Grasshopper-Club
    • 1937 Swiss league champion
    • 1939 Swiss league champion
    • 1942 Swiss league champion
    • 1943 Swiss league champion
    • 1945 Swiss league champion
    • 7-time Swiss cup winner
  • Servette
    • 1950 Swiss league champion
    • 1949 Swiss cup winner

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Source: description of line-ups of club Rapid Wien, at http://rapidarchiv.at/spiele/1930.html
  2. ^ a b (in German) Karl Rappan summary - rapidarchiv.at - Official Archives of SK Rapid Wien, by Gerald Pichler and Herbert Pawlek - retrieved October 2006.
  3. ^ Source: (in German) http://www.austriasoccer.at/LSP/1920_29/1927/s1927_02.htm
  4. ^ a b Play of the game > Strategy and tactics - britannica.com - by Richard C. Giulianotti, Jack D. Rollin, and Bernard Joy, Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 2006.
  5. ^ The "Bolt" - never fully understood by many people - fifa.com - by Walter Lutz, FIFA, 2000.
  6. ^ (in German) Swiss national team coaches in overview - www1.sf.tv - Schweizer Fernsehen, Retrieved October 2006.
  7. ^ Switzerland - International Matches since 1905 - by Erik Garin, RSSSF.
  8. ^ History of the UEFA Intertoto Cup Archived 2008-03-07 at the Wayback Machine - uefa.com, UEFA.
  9. ^ Background on the Intertoto Cup, By Søren Florin Elbech, www.mogiel.net

Further readingEdit