Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bert Trautmann, R.I.P.

A guy who was probably the toughest athlete I’ve ever heard of died a couple days ago. In addition to his athletic achievements, he also played an important role in postwar reconciliation (there are possibly some parallels between him and his transatlantic contemporary, Jackie Robinson).

I’m talking about Bert Trautmann, who died Friday at the age of 89.

Trautmann was a German, a POW imprisoned in England at the end of World War II. After being released in 1948, Trautmann stayed on in England, married a local girl, worked as a farmhand and on bomb-disposal crews, and played soccer for a semipro team. His play attracted the attention of a big-time team, Manchester City, which signed him as goalkeeper in 1949.

Germans were not thought highly of in England at that time, to put it mildly.
The club's decision to sign a former Axis paratrooper sparked protests, with 20,000 people attending a demonstration.
Robinson and Trautmann both proved, though, that sports fans will ignore most things if you’re really good.
During one of his first games in London, still bearing the signs of heavy damage from Germany's air raids, Trautmann overcame a hostile reception to play so well that at the end of the match, the players formed a line on either side of the tunnel and applauded him, while the Fulham crowd gave him a standing ovation.
In 1955, Manchester City made it to the FA Cup Final, the biggest event in English soccer at the time, and Trautmann became the first German to play in the final, which he said later was the highlight of his career, though Man City lost that game.

The next year they were back, however, and that game became the one for which Trautmann would be forever after remembered.
Trautmann, still recovering, receiving his
trophy as Player of the Year in 1956.
City had taken a 3-1 lead against Birmingham, and with 17 minutes to go Trautmann dived at the feet of onrushing forward Peter Murphy. The Birmingham player's knee collided with the City goalkeeper's neck, and Trautmann was knocked out. 
At the time, no substitutions were allowed, and Trautmann, although unsteady, returned to his place between the posts, according to an account on City's website. 
Trautmann made two more outstanding saves and then collided with his own defender, Dave Ewing, and had to be revived again before he could play on. While receiving his medal, Trautmann complained of a ''stiff neck.'' 
It was only three days later that an X-ray revealed a broken neck.
Trautmann played until 1964, then did some coaching. In 2004, he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in honor of his role in improving German-UK relations after the war. Here's some video showing the play in which Trautmann was injured, and also showing him rubbing his neck as he leaves the field.

No comments:

Post a Comment