Monday, October 3, 2011

Let’s cut the next cake: from left - Bayern president Wilhelm Neudecker, Franz Beckenbauer with wife Brigitte, and the star of 1954 World Cup Fritz Walter. The Kaiser displays fashionable jacket to make the party brighter.
Love birds? Not really – publicity stint rather. Sepp Maier at the Oktoberfest, having a beer with one of the best German alpine skiers Christa Zechmeister. The table is littered with football photos which Maier must sign and give away.
The seemingly endless party looking so fine and jolly in print was unable to hide growing discontent and outright trouble. The first scandal occurred immediately after winning the World Cup: the German Federation invited the national team to a celebratory reception. But the suits in the Federation were old and conservative – wives and especially girlfriends were not invited. Breitner, Muller, and Hoeness (if memory serves me correctly) were outraged and stormed out to celebrate elsewhere. Breitner made his opinion known to the press, which was hardly surprising, for he was well known critic of everything. Muller, however, was usually keeping his mind to himself and his bitter outburst was more serious news. Disgusted Muller announced that he was quitting the national team. The whole subject of women was torny: invitations were selective and arbitrary, rubbing players in the wrong way – Frau Beckenbauer was invited, but not Frau Muller. Unmarried players felt entirely discriminated against, for girlfriends were not invited at all. Parties had little to do with football, yet, the matter who can attend and who cannot official functions played destructive role in dividing the team.
Gerd Muller’s announcing that he does not want to play for West Germany anymore opened a problem of replacements – so far, the West Germans were able quietly and methodically to change aging players with new ones. There was no fuss over Seeler, Haller, and Schnellinger few years back – but then there were Beckenbauer, Muller, Netzer, already with huge reputations and experience. Now the situation was different
and Beckenbauer’s warning was actually right: replacement loomed as a megaproblem, for there were no obvious newcomers. The emotional announcement of Muller aggravated the problem by making it public and focusing entirely critical scrutiny on a process normally kept away from public view.
Eventually, it became known that Muller did not decide to quit out of the blue – he told Schon before the World Cup started that it was his last tournament. Muller felt tired, playing too many games in a year, and national team duty was too much. He was no longer young. The original announcement was fine – every player has to step down some time and Schon, alerted in advance, had time for quite search of replacement. But it was also a classic problem: how to replace a megastar? It is never painless and easy, for practically every new candidate pales in comparesment. There is always reluctantcy to call somebody else… and in the case of Muller it was even worse: was it possible at all to replace the best goalscorer in the world? Numbers alone tell differently – Gerd Muller is still unique in the history of football: he scored more goals for the national team than the games he played. Pele and Maradona don’t come even close to his average. And his manner of playing was also unique, so… perhaps fielding him a little longer… perhaps only in important games… perhaps not asking him to help in defense… which was not a solution after all, but just depending on Muller. But he said ‘no’. And he was not alone, so let’s see who was gone after the World Cup.
Only one player was not a problem: Hottges. The iron full back was not a starter since 1972, serving as reserve for Bertie Vogts. He appeared only once at the World Cup finals and only as a substitute. He exited quietly largely because Vogts was great and young enough. Grabowski also announced his retirement from the national team – looks like he and Muller told Schon early and the general public learned later. By itself, Grabowski’s retirement was not big deal – he was getting old and after three World Cups not only he felt it was time to call it a day. The trouble was that he left the team along with Muller and suddenly there was no centre-forward at all, the position was empty. And not only this one, but the whole attacking line – Erwin Kremers was gradually benched after 1972 and was just unused reserve at the World Cup. Jupp Heynckes lost his place during the World Cup as well and somehow never played strongly for the national team again – the second best goalscorer in the Bundesliga at the time failed to score for West Germany and obviously not a replacement for Muller. Attack was in trouble, and, unfortunately, not only the attack – Overath seemingly retired from the national team as well, for he did not play for West Germany after the World Cup. A new whole opened… for Netzer was the same age as Overath. Even with Beckenbauer in the team, there was a need of a playmaker in midfield and there was none. Schon and Netzer hardly tolerated each other anyway, but now a truce was impossible – aging Netzer was not in good form and reluctant to play, which made him more erattic than ever. After a struggle to a 1-1 tie against Greece in Dusseldorf on October 11, 1975 Netzer announced that he was no longer to play for West Germany. He was joined by his teammate in Real Madrid Paul Breitner – perhaps the only player able to step into playmaker’s shoes. Both appeared only twice after winning the World Cup – in Sofia, against Bulgaria, April 27, 1975 and then against Greece in October. Both matches were sluggish disgrace of football, ending 1-1, and the flamboyant moody stars were not willing to take it anymore: both severely criticized the way German football was organized and said that they don’t want to be part of it. Half of the team was gone… key positions were empty. Uli Hoeness was not available either, for he was struggling with injuries, which eventually cut his career short.
Instead of continuation of winning formula by quiet replacement of player now, another later, a third in a year, Schon had practically to build a new team – which was not the concept he had, and readjusting proved difficult. Schon was unable to revolutionize his own thinking and start from scratch – instead, he tried to continue his original concept, which increasingly appeared more as an chaotic patchwork than visionary rebuilding. Almost a full squad of players were introduced to the national team – W. Seel, R. Geye, K. H. Korbel, J. Pirrung, B. Dietz, R. Seeliger, B. Nickel, E. Kostedde, M. Ritschel, U. Kliemann, E. Beer, D. Danner, F. Keller, U. Stielike, B. Gersdorff, M. Kaltz, R. Kargus, R. Worm, H. Bongartz, K. Toppmoller, and finally – at the European Championship final – Dieter Muller. Most of them were strikers and nobody a playmaker – showing scary deficit of talent, for the best part of the new national players were not exactly young and not really stars, but rather well established second-stringers. Good for smaller clubs, but never attracting the interest of Bayern or Borussia. Many names, but they did not last longer than a match or two.
Infusing new blood – B. Gersdorff and E. Beer in the friendly with Austria. The new blood was rather stale… Beer was 28 years old, for instance.
The rollercoaster was largely good for trivia… for the first time a black player donned German jersey.
Erwin Kostedde on snow… well, he was not ‘black’ – strictly speaking, he was mulatto, born in Germany, so snow was not a challenge to him. Born in 1946, Kostedde had checkered career so far – starting with SC Preussen (Munster), and moving to MSV Duisburg, Standard (Liege, Belgium), and Kickers (Offenbach), before joining Hertha (West Berlin) for 1974-75 season. There were more clubs to follow… including a new spell with Standard (Liege) and a spell in France. Big star he never was – the fact he played for so many clubs, but rarely longer than a season, suggests clearly he was not born to be a great footballer. But he scored plenty, including the Bundesliga goal of the season in 1974. His inclusion in the German national team suggests desperation, not improvement. It also suggests a crisis and absence of talent, for Kostedde debuted when 29 years old – Gerd Muller, born one year before Kostedde, already felt too old to play for Germany. As for lasting impressions… one may safely say the new striker made none: he played a grand total of 3 matches, scoring no goals.