Monday, August 16, 2010

Italians were sick, but West Germany had clean bill of health. The Bundesliga was getting better by the year, although it was not yet considered the best in Europe, and the place to be, to play, and to make money. This will come in the second half of the 70s, for now it was just financially stable and very well organized championship. Satisfied with the state of their football, West German Federation took the next careful, sound, and orderly step – in the summer of 1974 professional second division was organized for the first time. It was divided into 2 groups – South and North – of 18 teams each. The only trouble was the summer of 1973, when predatory Spanish clubs were finally allowed to hunt foreign markets. Netzer went to Real (Madrid) without much fuss, but Barcelona wanted Gerd Muller. It was strange appetite, to say the least – Barca already acquired Sotil and completed satisfactory the long soap-opera with Cruiff. Why they needed third foreign player since it was impossible to field everybody under the Spanish rules? And why Muller of all people? The possible mixture of Cruiff and Muller was more than suspect: Muller was mostly a consumer, but Cruiff was not strictly provider. Both were centre-forwards, but of very different kinds – Muller was rather static, occupying the penalty area and waiting the ball to come. Cruiff needed space – empty space – in which to arrive suddenly from behind or from the flanks. He provided great passes, but to make him just Muller’s supplier was more than unlikely – it was lethal, given Cruiff’s stubborn and outspoken character. Anyway, Barca pursued Muller in a way quickly becoming another soap opera. Muller got troubled and publicly complained that he is psychologically exhausted and deeply troubled by the whole thing. Then the German Federation stepped in and introduced a ban on sales of German players to foreign clubs until the end of the World Cup 1974. The ban attracted little interest at the time – it was common practice of many countries back then, familiar to everyone. Many countries even went a step further in protecting talent by declaring stars a ‘national treasure’, therefore, entirely outside the market (Pele in Brasil; Antoniadis in Greece – to give you examples from different sides of football). But the German ban need a word: although expressed in general terms, it was imposed only on national players. Minor players were free to go abroad. In reality it was ban preventing only Spanish clubs (no other foreign market at the time was interested or able to afford German stars) from muddling German heads with no-playing matters. It was time, in German opinion, to concentrate on football and get ready for winning the World Cup. The ban worked – at least for Muller, who apparently recovered from his psychological trauma and started scoring goals.
Bayern won the championship – again. And again – after close fight with Borussia (Moenchengladbach), who finished only 2 points behind. Bayern still played attacking and high scoring brand of football – they scored 95 goals this season. Outscoring the opposition was evidently the idea, not defense, judging by the fact of the goals received – 52. Now, to have Maier between the posts and Hansen – Beckenbauer – Schwarzenbeck – Breitner in front of him and to allow almost 2 goals per match? Other clubs had better defensive records, but it was not a bad season for the formidable defensive line – it was just the concept of attacking and outscoring. Muller ended once again top scorer of the season with 30 goals, but this year had to share the first place with Jupp Heynckes from the rivals Borussia. ‘Der Kaiser’ Franz was voted player of the season – for third time so far, but it was his first since 1968.
More and more familiar champion faces…
Top, left to right: Beckenbauer, Kapellmann, Torstensson, Schwarzenbeck, Durnberger, Roth, Muller, Breitner, Hoeness, and half-cut coach Udo Lattek, who was by no means half a coach.
Bottom: Zobel, Hadewicz, Jensen, Robl, Maier, Hansen.
Essentially the same team of the year before and earlier, only slightly refined by the inclusion of Kapellmann and Torstensson. The number of foreigners was unusually high – three Danes – Johnny Hansen, Viggo Jensen, and Torben Hansen; a Swede – Conny Torstensson; and an Yugoslav – Dusan Jovanovic – but with the exception of Johnny Hansen and Torstensson, the rest almost never played. Season over, domestic and European trophies collected, 7 players went to try to win the World Cup and one went to try to prevent his teammates from winning the World Cup. Torstensson joined the Swedish national team; Beckenbauer, Kapellmann, Schwarzenbeck, Muller, Breitner, Hoeness, and Maier donned the white jerseys of West Germany. Everything was going great in Bavaria.
On the surface, West Germany appeared to be establishing duopoly – since 1969 Bayern and Borussia fought for and alternatively won the national championship. But they were not alone and other clubs also were improving rapidly. True, Schalke 04 were cut-off in mid-flight by the bribing scandal in 1971, but there were other candidates for possible greatness. By 1974 Hamburger SV showed signs of recovery; Fortuna (Dusseldorf) was quietly getting stronger - and finished third this season; and finally - Eintracht (Frankfurt). Eintracht played consistently strong football since the end of the 60s and built fine squad. It looked like they were to become a third great German team, thus making the championship even more interesting and, in general, to contribute to the constant improvement of German football with new crops of talented players.

Eintracht (Frankfurt) won the Cup.
Left to right: Thomas Rohrbach, Bernd Nickel, Bernd Holzenbein, Peter Reichel, Jurgen Kalb, Roland Weidle, Klaus Beverungen, Charly Korbel, Gerd Trinklein, Dr. Peter Kunter, Jurgen Grabowski – captain.
Unlike Bayern and Borussia, Eintracht depended mostly in German players at that time – they had only one foreigner, the Austrian midfielder Thomas Parits. The core of team was German and good mixture of experience, younger talent, and ambition. Grabowski and Holzenbein were in the World Cup German squad – and on the road to become world famous. Rohrbach, Nickel, Korbel, and Trinklein were knocking at the door of the national team and were considered very promising players for the future (none of them established himself in the national team, although all played for it eventually). Reichel, Kalb – players, providing solidity. And the class – Doctor Peter Kunter. Always ‘Doctor’, for those were still old-fashioned years and to be Dr. was something – certainly more than to be football player, even of world star caliber. Dr. Kunter was experienced and well respected goalkeeper. Very good team really and finally mature, and ready to win. And win they did! Yes, German football was in great health and the future was bright… just wait a year, two the most.