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Gunter Netzer (Memoir - Er ist noch nicht tot)


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For the older lags (and they know who they are):

 

FOOTBALL

Gunter Netzer — the German maverick who refused to play by the rules

Jonathan Northcroft Football Correspondent

Sunday June 05 2022, 12.01am, The Sunday Times

 

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/gunter-netzer-the-german-maverick-who-refused-to-play-by-the-rules-lcndfvl60

 

Netzer starred in a 3-1 win over England at Wembley 50 years ago

 

Netzer starred in a 3-1 win over England at Wembley 50 years ago

COLORSPORT/SHUTTERSTOCK

 

Gunter Netzer was at his peak when he gave one of his free-spirited interviews to Kicker, the German magazine. He bemoaned the “aura of dumbness” that surrounded football and observed, “forget all the clichés about teammates being great mates: that’s cobblers.”

The article caused outrage within the German game and Netzer’s manager at Borussia Monchengladbach, Hennes Weisweiler, said that the legendary Sepp Herberger — coach of West Germany’s 1954 World Cup-winning team — wanted to come and see him. The long-suffering Weisweiler added a personal plea: “take him anywhere you choose but, please, not to your discotheque.”

The latter was a nightclub called Lovers Lane which Netzer opened in 1971. It was the hottest spot in Monchengladbach, with an artsy black and white interior, designed by Netzer’s girlfriend, and a football shirt on the wall — ripped in two and covered in geometric prints by a famous abstract artist from Dusseldorf.

Netzer’s inspiration for Lovers Lane was a beachside disco in Tel Aviv owned by the British model, made famous by the Profumo scandal, Mandy Rice-Davies, which he visited on a trip to Israel with his club — sneaking out of the team hotel and scaling a fence with a journalist friend so he could explore the city’s nightlife.

Of course, Netzer did take Herberger to Lovers Lane and ended up charming the great man. Even though Herberger was 74 and “it was the first time in his life he had been in a disco. The place was unbelievably loud. We were shouting at each other to be heard.”

 

This yarn is just in a colourful tapestry of stories told in Netzer’s rich new memoir, Aus der Tiefe des Raumes (Out of Deep Space), which is being published in English as Wembley 1972…And Other Big Feats. That title is partly a pun on Netzer’s famously large boot size (a 12, despite him being just 5ft 10in) and partly a reference to one of his most famous performances when West Germany beat England 3-1 at Wembley, 50 years ago, in a European Championship quarter-final.

The game marked the end of England’s golden age under Alf Ramsey, and the beginning of a German one in which they won Euro 72 then the 1974 World Cup. And Netzer, their sauntering, anarchic, long-haired No 10 was the architect. In his match report, the late, great Hugh McIlvanney pinpointed Netzer’s ability to “explode out of his normal strolling gait into a thrilling penetrating gallop.”

 

Netzer’s unconventional playing style and creative brilliance combined with his off-field persona made him a hero of counterculture

Netzer’s unconventional playing style and creative brilliance combined with his off-field persona made him a hero of counterculture

PA

 

He was a unique footballer, a playmaker who roamed almost into defensive areas (hence ‘out of deep space’) without ever seeming pressured or rushed, but who could then project the play forward with devastating directness — whether through a long, balanced, slaloming dribble, or long, gorgeous pass onto an attacker’s toes. Replaying footage of that ’72 game, then bingeing on Netzer highlights reels, the biggest sensation is of watching a footballer playing his own game — one appreciating time, field positions and game situations a little differently to others on the pitch.

Lovely footballers as the likes of Kai Havertz and Phil Foden are, there won’t be a Netzer on the field when England and Germany meet again on Wednesday — because the game stopped accommodating individualists years ago. And Netzer, nicknamed Rebell Am Ball (Rebel on the Ball) was an individualist’s individualist.

From a middle class family, Borussia Monchengladbach were his local club and he was pivotal in their rise from provincial obscurity to the first back-to-back Bundesliga winners in 1970 and 1971. He left in 1973, for Real Madrid, but only after winning the German Cup in his final game. Weisweiler left him out of the starting XI so he took the liberty of subbing himself on in extra-time before immediately scoring a spectacular winner.

Never conformist, he admits his “greatest pleasure, even today, is being lazy” and that the traditional German view of football being “about sweat and tears” was never for him. He loved fast, beautiful sports cars, wore suede trousers and was the first German player to have shoulder-length hair. He was linked with Hollywood actresses like Raquel Welch and his friends were intellectuals.

His unconventional playing style and creative brilliance, allied to his off-field persona made Netzer a hero of counterculture and he was offered an honorary professorship by Dusseldorf Art Academy. Sometimes he walked off the training pitch because he was bored and twice he just upped and flew home from summer tours with Monchenglabach. “I did not see why I should spend my free time with the same people I was wedded to professionally,” he explains.

Often the book meanders, taking its time to complete a story, but always charmingly — and that’s fitting. It’s how Netzer played. There’s an incredible tale where he is out injured at Real Madrid (where he won two La Ligas) but close to a comeback when the call comes inviting him to Tina Sinatra’s wedding in Las Vegas. Among the many snags are that Real Madrid have his passport — but via a friend at the German Embassy, Netzer acquires a temporary one, and somehow manages to pass through Madrid airport incognito by wearing a low hat and overcoat with the collar turned up.

 

At the wedding, he sits with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Neil Diamond — and Frank Sinatra pulls strings to score him tickets to see Elvis.

After playing, Netzer became general manager of Hamburg and his first coup was to persuade Kevin Keegan not to leave. Netzer was integral in building Hamburg’s 1983 European Cup winning team. A celebrated German TV career followed before retirement to Switzerland.

It’s remarkable it has taken until now for this adventurer of his sport — 78 in September — to produce a memoir, but then again Netzer did always do things at his own pace, and it’s book worth waiting for. Fifty years on from him bestriding Wembley, it’s a good time to remember Der Rebell.

 

On TV Tuesday
Germany v England
7pm Channel 4, kick-off 7.45pm

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Definitely my type of player part of the team that destroyed Inter then some tally through an empty coke can a tally went down as if he had been shot the jerries were five one up at the break another two in the second half as older fans will remember tally sides ruled every aspect of European football back then and they got a reply disgraceful.

A year later he was in a fine German side that destroyed Ramsay’s England at Wembley an excellent footballer 

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Proper fetch-and-carry inside man finishing with a lethal pass or occasional thunderbolt.

 

I reckon he was the inspiration for the Sky Sports football ad. featuring a player in a WBA shirt cutting a weaving path through an imaginary defence, with a ballboy scampering in his wake holding up his long flowing hair like a pageboy holding a train.

 

Netzer and Breitner in their appearance were so different from their Immediate predecessors in the W German team, short haired Teutons like Held and Schnellinger.

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I can count myself very lucky to have seen him play in real life. When I was 9, my dad took me and my brother to see Everton play Moenchengladbach at Goodison in the European Cup. We were all Liverpool fans but Dad had lots of Evertonian friends and had helped to organise a trip to the first leg in Germany, which he also attended. We were very disappointed when Andy Rankin saved a penalty in the shoot off to put Everton through but it was a memorable experience. Berti Vogts was playing as well, great team they had.

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