German football history is full of clubs, players and officials who have produced loads of great anecdotes and stories worth sharing. In this series we are going to look at them and share some of our favorite stories from the history books of German football.
1. Riegel Rudi’s genius
It was a long and very boozy dinner when the officials signed Rudi Gutendorf as their coach for the first ever Bundesliga season. Towards the end of the night Gutendorf demurred that he wanted a bonus for winning the championship and second place in his contract, which caused a huge bouts of laughter around the table. In the end the officials decided to amend his contract on a napkin, granting him the bonuses that he wanted.
The team’s start to the season was a lot better than expected. Gutendorf’s defensive tactics earned him the nickname of Riegel Rudi(latch Rudi) rather quickly. As the season continued the team didn’t stop surprising. Even German football legend Uwe Seeler was surprised by the Meidenreicher SV’s showing during HSV’s away trip to the Wedaustadion. On the journey from Hamburg Seeler had jokingly said “Where is Meidenreich anyway?”. However, the jokes weren’t flowing as freely on the trip back, as MSV had handed it 4-0 to Seeler’s side. That week MSV climbed into second place – and they never looked back all season.
2. Helmut Rahn’s last season
Ahead of the 1963/64 season MSV coach Rudi Gutendorf decided to bring back Helmut Rahn. Der Boss had left German football in disgrace in 1960 when he turned up drunk ahead of the DFB Pokal for 1. FC Köln. After three years in the Netherlands it was time to bring the 34-year-old hero back to Germany Gutendorf told the officials at the club. Given that Rahn’s fondness for booze was a well known fact within German football the board had some concerns of what such a move potentially might lead to. Gutendorf himself had a solution in store. He simply put Rahn in charge of the well being of a race horse, which meant that the attacker had to be at the stables at 6 in the morning. The scorer of the winning goal of the World Cup final 1954 loved his new responsibilities and cared for the horse. Additionally he scored 5 goals in his 18 matches for the club.
3. The enemy among us – Ewald Lienen’s time at MSV
During his playing days Ewald Lienen became known as the politically left leaning Bundesliga player with a flair(which makes him one of Writing Fussball’s favourites), who was decidedly different in many ways. Even though he had a sticker of Borussia Mönchengladbach on the back of his car, he still decided to end his career at MSV Duisburg, one of the Foals rivals. Despite the fact that he was driving around supporting one of the club’s rivals, Lienen made a name for himself among the fans and the players of the club. As his career was coming towards the end Lienen took his coaching badges(finishing top of his class, of course) and start to coach MSV’s second team whilst still playing in the Bundesliga for the senior side.
One of his first pupils was Michael Tarnart, who also shared a room with Lienen during training camps. The former Karlsruhe and Bayern star remembers how Lienen “brutally awoke me by starting his Mülsi making machine”. Dietary concerns were among Lienen’s top priorities as a coach. Furthermore, Tarnart points out that Zettel Ewald(note pad Ewald) was more as a coach as the man furiously taking notes on the sidelines. If hadn’t been for his former coach he’d never reached as far the four time German champion told MoPo. “He taught me a lot about life and family”, Tarnart remembers.
4. Joachim Hopp – Worker on and off the pitch
One of Lienen’s first discoveries was the striker Joachim Hopp. The new second team coach was so impressed with the performance of the big man that he told his first team coach to include him in the winter training camp during the Winterpause of the 1989/90 season. When the pitches of the facilities MSV had booked in the Netherlands were suffering from the icy effects of a rather cold winter the squad was forced to do most of their training indoors. During one of those training sessions Hopp lifted 120 kilos without breaking a sweat, which caused first team coach Willibert Krämer to shout “Hoppi, from now you are a defender”.
After his new found role it took Hopp some time to get his first appearance for the first team, but on march 17th in the 1991 the day had finally come. Until 1993 the defender was given sporadic chances to prove himself in the senior side, all the while still being an amateur who worked for Thyssen, standing a good few hours in front of blast furnace before leaving work to join the team for training sessions.
When Ewald Lienen was made first team coach ahead of the 1993/94 season Hopp was given a professional contract and became a regular starter. In 1994 the club asked him to give up his work at Thyssen in order to fully focus on his life as a footballer. During his time at the club Hopp became a firm fan favorite due to his background and physical playing style. “I was thankful for every minute of Bundesliga action I got, and I showed that on the pitch”, Hopp told 11 Freunde. His time in Duisburg lasted until 1998. Coach Friedhelm Funkel took it upon himself to tell Hopp that he wasn’t really the most gifted footballer and that his services were no longer needed.
5. The transfer that never happened – Pavel Nedved barely escaping Duisburg
Whenever football fans are being asked about Pavel Nedved they marvel about the midfield’s maestro genius passing skills and his time at Juventus. However, it turns out that the Czech midfielder might have gone on a different career trajectory if it hadn’t been for the EURO’s in 1996. Ahead of the tournament Nedved and MSV Duisburg had reached an agreement in principal which would have seen the talented playmaker join the Zebras. However, both MSV and Nedved’s club Spartak Prague decided that it was a good idea to wait with the transfer until after the tournament. The officials at the club may have thought that they might be able to push the price down even further if Nedved had a terrible tournament. However, the midfield genius performed to the best of his abilities and led his country to the final. In the end Lazio swooped in and outbid MSV. When Lazio offered 3.5 million € for the midfielder the Zebras simply weren’t able to keep up. The Czech midfield maestro was later on sold to Juventus for 41.2 million €.