61. Fritz Walter
One of the true legends in German football, Fritz Walter, will always have a special position in his own country. Born in 1920, he missed many years of his career because of World War II, but still made his debut for the national team during those years. He played only for one club through-out his career, his birth town club 1.FC Kaiserslautern where he won two German league championships as a playmaker and striker in the early 1950s.
In 1954, national team coach Sepp Herberger made Fritz Walter his captain as the West German team traveled across the border to Switzerland to participate in their first World Cup after the war. Walter was now 33 and lead the Germans through to the final where they met Hungary. A team which hadn’t lost a match in four years! The Germans, with many reserves, lost 8-3 in the first round when the two teams met earlier in the tournament, and despite trailing by two goals already after ten minutes in the final, Walter drove his team forward. Amazingly enough, West Germany recovered and scored a winning goal in the dying minutes to win their first World Cup. Also in the team was Fritz’s brother Ottmar making them the first brothers to win the World Cup. A proud captain Fritz Walter, who scored three goals in the tournament himself, could collect the trophy.
Walter captained West Germany also in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden as they reached the semifinals losing to the hosts 3-1 in Gothenburg. Fritz retired the following year, but coach Herberger had a hard time accepting that, and he seriously tried to persuade Walter to join the German team for the Chile World Cup in 1962 with no success. Walter was then almost 42! To illustrate his greatness and position, Fritz Walter made the German Team of the Century voted by the people in 1999. Kaiserslautern paid tribute to him by naming their stadium after him on his 65th birthday in 1985.
ARCHIV – Der deutsche Stürmer und Kapitän Fritz Walter (M, oben) und sein Lauterer Teamgefährte Horst Eckel (r) werden nach dem Triumph im Fußball-WM-Finale im Berner Wankdorfstadion von begeisterten Anhängern vom Spielfeld getragen (Archivfoto vom 04.07.1954). Horst Eckel ist noch immer rank und schlank wie beim «Wunder von Bern». 1954 leistete er mit 22 Jahren und damit als «Benjamin» der glorreichen deutschen Mannschaft seinen großen Beitrag zum WM-Triumph. An diesem Donnerstag (08.02.2007) feiert der WM-Held seinen 75. Geburtstag. Foto: dpa (zu dpa-KORR.: “Weltmeister Horst Eckel wird 75: «Ich bin immer noch am Ball»” vom 06.02.2007) +++(c) dpa – Bildfunk+++