The long and glorious history of SK Rapid began back in the late 19th century when a group of youthful smelters banded together and in summer 1897 formed the 1. Wiener Arbeiter Fußball-Club (1st Viennese Workers’ Football Club).
From the 1. Wiener Arbeiter Fußball-Club…
A first mention of the club, who took to the playing field in blue and red, was to be found in the Viennese daily newspaper “Neuen Wiener Abendblatt”:
“The 1. Wiener Arbeiter Fußball-Club, which has set itself the task of making the sport of football, which has become so popular in Vienna, accessible for the working class, invites all interested, sport loving workers to join the club, which already consists of a number of good and well trained players.”
The young team’s first home was the Smelting Parade Ground, directly next to the Count Radetzky Barracks. In their first match the young ‘founding fathers’ celebrated a success: against FC Vorwärts they played out a 1:1 draw. However, this would prove to be the high point of the fledgling club’s early life: in nineteen games the 1. Wiener Arbeiter Fußball-Club registered a single victory and suffered regular, heavy defeats which led to a crisis meeting on January 8th 1899.
…to Sportklub Rapid
None of the young men present knew how posterity would view the outcomes of decisions made during the crisis meeting. But what is certain is that the players of the day already took their sport very seriously, and weren’t satisfied with merely making up the numbers. The first step on the road to success was a name change: on that January day Sportklub Rapid was born.
From blue and red to Green & White
The new SK Rapid’s formative years were spent playing friendly matches and tournaments, sometimes beyond Austria’s borders. In 1903 a tangible strength on the home pitch began to develop, as the new Rapid home ground in Rudolfsheim was opened and proved to be rather unconventional. The bumpy surface suited Rapid’s combative playing style, whilst there was a height difference of two meters between the two goals. More and more Rapid learned to use their new home to their advantage and gradually began to enjoy improving fortunes. The Green & White history of success began in 1905; the seminal year in which Sportklub Rapid decided to change the club colours.
From the first taste of success…
Watching Rapid play gradually became a hobby for more and more Viennese. The team played with skill and spirit, and in 1903 gained promotion to what was then the top class of Austrian football. As early as the beginning of the twentieth century the club was growing and a club house was constructed, as was a stand. However these ambitious projects led to the club being weighed down by debt as it approached its ten year anniversary.
…to the first crisis
The City of Vienna cancelled the lease the young football club held on its Rudolfsheim home. With the roof gone from above their heads, the carpet was also very nearly pulled out from under their feet as SK Rapid’s future hung in the balance: enter “Mr Rapid” Dionys Schönecker. Equipped with a master plan to transform the ailing club’s fortunes, Schönecker took over both as Secretary and Trainer.
Dionys Schönecker and the first league championship
The motto “Together. Fight. Win” governed the attitude of Schönecker’s young Rapid players during the first season. The players at Schönecker’s disposal were young due to the more established players’ decision to leave the club following the loss of the ground at Rudolfsheim. The youthful SK Rapid hit the ground running, winning the club’s first ever league title in 1911/12. Sportklub Rapid had realised its goal to rid itself of debt problems and uncertainty, and could now look forward to creating history with new security: indeed, during the first title winning season Dionys Schonecker’s brother Edi had already finished his building project, and Rapid’s new home, the Pfarrwiese, opened its doors.