West Ham United’s next opponents in the Europa League group stage are Austrian side Rapid Vienna. Here is all you need to know about the opponents.
The club, nicknamed “Die Grün-Weißen” (The Green-Whites) because of the team colours, was originally known as Erster Wiener Arbeiter-Fußball-Club (First Viennese Workers’ Football Club) when the club was formed in 1897.
Their original colours were red and blue, which are still used today in their away matches. On January 8th 1899, the club was renamed Sportklub Rapid Wien, following the example of Rapide Berlin, and a few years later in 1904, the team colours were changed to green and white.
Rapid have several different fan clubs within Switzerland, with the largest being Ultras Rapids – other notable groups include the ultras group Tornados Rapid, Spirits and the hooligan firm Alte Garde Dritte Halbzeit.
The fan-base of Rapid have a strong connection with the supporters of several European clubs including Nürnberg, Dinamo Zagreb (who were West Ham’s first opponents in this season’s Europa League campaign), Venezia, Ferencváros and Panathinaikos. Ferencváros and Panathinaikos also play in green – the alliance is nicknamed the “Green Brothers”.
Rapid fans are famous for their “Rapid-Viertelstunde” – rhythmic clapping in support of their team during the final 15 minutes of a match, regardless of the score or whether playing at home or away. A tradition dating back to the club’s earliest days, there have been countless instances where the team have managed to turn a game around and come back from losing positions because of this.
Montenegrin full back Filip Stojkovic is one of their players of note and is key to keeping clean sheets at the back. Stojkovic also can play as an attacking full back/wing back, and at the age of 26, he is coming into the prime of career and is a solid and reliable player.
Nicholas Wunsch is a much-hyped up-and-coming talent and looks set to become the creative force that the team is built around. The right footed inverted winger is deadly when cutting in from the left and is tipped to top both the goal and assist tables for many years to come.
As winners of their domestic league in the 1954/55 season, Rapid were Austria’s entrant for the inaugural European Cup in the following season and opened with a 6–1 home victory against PSV, with Alfred Körner scoring a hat-trick.
Despite losing the away leg 1–0, the club still advanced to a quarter-final, where they were defeated 8-3 on aggregate. Rapid’s best performance in the European Cup came in the 1960/61 season when they reached the semi-final before being eliminated by eventual winners Benfica 4-1 on aggregate.
Rapid do not have much European competition experience in recent years. The club were embroiled in controversy in 1984 when they eliminated Celtic from the last 16 of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Celtic were leading 4–3 on aggregate with 14 minutes left in the match when Rapid conceded a penalty.
As the Rapid players protested to the match officials, their defender Rudolf Weinhofer then fell to the ground and claimed to have been hit by a bottle thrown from the stands. However, television replays clearly showed that while a bottle was thrown onto the pitch, it did not hit Weinhofer.
The match finished 4–3, but Rapid appealed to UEFA for a replay. The replay appeal was turned down initially, but Rapid appealed again. On this occasion, Rapid’s fine was doubled but UEFA also stipulated that the match be replayed. The game was held on 12th December 1984 at Old Trafford and this time Rapid won 1–0 thanks to a Peter Pacult strike.
Rapid went on to reach their first European final in 1985, losing 3–1 in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final to Everton in Rotterdam. Eleven years later, in the same tournament’s final in Brussels, Rapid lost 1–0 to PSG.
Rapid last reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in 2005–06 where they finished last in their group after losing all of their matches, which saw them pitted against Bayern Munich, Juventus and Club Brugge.
Vienna played Arsenal in last season’s Europa League campaign – losing 2-1 at home. This was Rapid Vienna’s first home defeat in the group stages of the Europa League since October 2012. Significantly, it also ended the club’s 13-game unbeaten run at home in the competition’s group stage. They were beaten again a few months later by the Gunners 4-1 at The Emirates Stadium.
West Ham United welcome Rapid Vienna to the London Stadium on Thursday 30th September, at 8pm.
By Lauren Jayne.