Ahead of tonight’s friendly the Cutter selects eleven non-efficient Germans.
From England’s ‘bulldog spirit’ to the Samba boys of Brazil with their carnival flamboyance many national football sides are essentially an extension of their countries’ stereotypes.
One nation represents this phenomenon better than any other, a side whose character is so ingrained with it’s countrymen’s clichés there is little need to talk of the inherent efficiency, drive and organisation, or haughty aloofness that has led them to a record seven World Cup finals. They are simply known as ‘typical Germans’.
The phrase is usually muttered into a pint of beer as yet another well-drilled penalty clinically breaks millions of hearts. Or when a seemingly average XI somehow negotiate their way past sensationally gifted semi-final opponents.
Typical Germans include the imperious such as Franz ‘der Kaiser’ Beckenbauer to the reviled in Harold Schumacher. From arguably the most Teutonic man ever born Lother Matthaus to that Kuntz in 1996 they have struck fear and contempt into the global game for as long as anyone can remember.
Yes there is respect too but only in the same manner you admire an obsessively diligent tax man.
All of that changed in 2010 when young coach Joachim Low took a young team to South Africa and let loose the reins. That team containing the ingenuity of Ozil and the sheer class of Khedira and Mueller played with such adventurous abandon they didn’t just tear England a new one but also meant a complete reappraising was required as to what a Germany side symbolised. Whisper it quietly but they were suddenly quite…likable.
To celebrate the new funky Die Mannschaft who will excite us once again at next month’s Euros we’ve put together an all-time eleven of Germans who never quite fit the efficiently-crafted mould.
1/ Lutz Pfannenstiel
Down the years the German number one position has been a roll call of arrogant, athletic Aryans. Sepp Maier, Harold Schumacher, Bodo Illgner, Oliver Kahn, Jans Lehman…all distastefully supercilious like the Third Reich in gloves. We hav vays of making you miss Herr Striker.
Not so the ponytailed Pfannenstiel who is more like how us Brits like our keepers to be – mad as a bag of squirrels. The 39 year old recently drew a close to an incident-packed career that defined the term ‘journeyman’. 25 clubs in 13 countries across all six FIFA Confederations (the only player to do so)
Pfannenstiel, who liked to sport an earring and leather necklace during games, was once declared dead on the pitch after his lungs collapsed in a collision (he woke in a hospital three hours later after being pronounced dead a further two times) then later spent 101 days in a Singapore prison on charges of match-fixing. During a brief spell at Wimbledon the ‘crazy gang’ stripped him naked three miles from home and left him in a ditch.
Last February the clearly unhinged individual spent five days and nights in an igloo and streamed it live on the internet. Why? No-one knows for sure.
2/ Ditmar Jakobs
Throughout the 80s Jakobs was a classical libero very much in the Beckenbauer mould and in character and personality there is no evidence to suggest he was anything but a ‘typical German’.
However, the manner in which his career came to a gory and dramatic end is anything but germanically assured.
In September 1989 during a game between Hamburger and Werder Bremen Jakobs cleared acrobatically off the line only to fall upon a hook that stuck out from the netting. There he dangled for 20 agonising minutes – the hook deep into his flesh – until eventually a scalpel was used to free him. The implement however accidentally severed a nerve in his back that forced him to immediately retire from the game.
3/ Paul Breitner
Arguably the greatest left-back of all time with arguably the worst hair Breitner was an individual amongst the collective vision that took Germany to a World Cup triumph on home soil in ’74. As the country rejoiced he derided his medal as nothing more than a political symbol then withdraw from the following tournament in Argentina on moral grounds. ‘Der Afro’ as he was affectionately known was a left-wing activist who was a vociferous reader of Lenin and Mao. The photograph above shocked Germany to the core.
4/ Werner Kohlmeyer
Known for his sense of fair play Kohlmeyer was a fine left-back of the 1950s who was once ran ragged by Stanley Matthews at Wembley but declared himself proud afterwards for not committing a single foul. We can only imagine how Matthaus and co would have responded to that in modern times.
After retirement the German international fell onto hard times, becoming an alcoholic and making ends meet by becoming a doorman for a newspaper publisher. He died aged just 49.
5/ Otto Rehhagel
Eccentric he may be but with Rehhagel there is method in the madness. After seven years service as a tough-as-nails centre back for Kaiserslautern he went on to become a widely respected scout discovering Rudi Voller and Karl-Heinze Reidle before moving into the dug-out and shocking the continent by taking Greece to their 100-1 triumph at the 2004 Euros.
‘King Otto’ presently presides at Hertha, unsettling opponents with his Clough-like managerial style.
6/ Marko Marin
The ‘German Messi’ may have thus far failed to live up to the huge expectation once heaped upon his slender shoulders but Marin represents best of all the new exciting mandate and mentality of his national side. The flying wideman doesn’t take on players because it’s advantageous and rational to do so; he does it purely for fun.
7/ David Odonkor
The head-down speed-merchant – reminiscent of a certain Theo Walcott – was Klinsmann’s ace in the hole during his tenure in charge at the 2006 World Cup based on home soil. By German standards it was a poor, pondersome side and they relied on the Bunde-born blitzkrieg to offer them some much-needed vitality and intent, often employed as a late sub to devastating effect.
8/ Gunter Netzer
In a magnificent but functional 1970s team Netzer was its imagination and style rolled into one blonde package. An iconic playmaker he was twice voted German footballer of the year. In 1973 when Barca bought Cruyff Real Madrid responded in kind by buying a player who may have been German by birth and upbringing but was Dutch in every way on the pitch.
9/ Gerd Muller
The stereotypical German mentality is that the team is everything and through a collective will the team will triumph. Muller’s philosophy was much more singular. He wanted goals and the selfish, individual glory that came with that. And by Jesus did Der Bomber succeed in that aim. A staggering 68 in 62 for Die Mannschaft with 487 in 555 league appearances. Muller was born to score.
10/ Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen the German was in many ways the archetypal image of all that is Teutonic. The flowing blonde mane. The win at all costs mentality. He is however considered in his homeland to be something of a strange fruit. Eschewing the luxury lifestyle of a modern-day professional footballer Klinsmann was happy tootling around in his Volkswagon Beetle finally fulfilling his west-coast beach-bum mindset post-retirement by uprooting for California as soon as his playing days were over.
His self-effacing nature made him a firm favourite in Blighty joining Bert Trautmann and Boris Becker as Germans we actually hold in genuine endearment.
11/ Ewe Seeler
A fantastically gifted striker who matched Pele’s achievement of representing his country at four back-to-back World Cups in 58, 62, 66 and 70. His goal record is second only to the arch-poacher Muller in the record books but what makes Ewe stand apart was his unfailing modesty and kindness. His autobiography sums up the man – from one of the finest players of his generation it is simply entitled ‘Thank You Football’.