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These 20 footballers came out of nowhere

These 20 footballers came out of nowhere

They were gone. Failed, banished, submerged, imprisoned. Or: They kicked somewhere where nobody noticed them. In dusty amateur places, in empty traditional stadiums or elsewhere. It's about fabulous footballer careers that began anything but hopefully – and then still have a happy ending. These stories are almost ready to be filmed.

It's the stories that begin sometime in the youth team when the stars' posters are maturing into football dreams and then somehow nothing happens. The school, the job, and the studies suddenly lie between themselves and the big career. Another talent, already in his youth of the stature of a boxer begins to delude himself and ends up behind bars. A footballer's dream can't be any more broken. This is followed by the miraculous turnaround between the upper league and the regional league, back to the professional business behind the scenes, and then overnight at the very top. That's a path our nobodies take.

Then there are those who, according to their own statements, “never wanted to become professionals”, who are content with a well-paid “decent” profession. The nice guys from next door, the Oberliga Kicker, who go to church before the departure for the away game and for whom the warmth of a nest and a regular income is worth more than the glamour world of the shrill professional business.

Police trainers, car salesmen, and prospective lawyers believe that professional football is only a dream that is casually talked about in the cabins of amateur or leisure teams. “Did you see the Bavarians on TV last night,” they say. Or: ” I could get involved in the way 1860 is playing at the moment”. And then some really get the opportunity. Suddenly they're on the team with the big ones.The feeling of having made it often occurs with young professionals. They are often at the top of their career at a young age – resting on their laurels, then changing clubs like shirts. Others are mercilessly torn apart by critics as professionals – and then somehow manage to convince everyone of their great footballing skills.

One of the most prominent German players of the last 20 years has to flee the Bundesliga in order to make it with professional football. He takes 3 leagues as a detour to get to the top.

It becomes problematic when one is already at the top – and then for some reason, not always invented, he goes crazy. Professional football attracts a lot i.e. the big money, the celebrity bonus, the beautiful women. And it often leads to a dead end. An English football monument ends up in prison because of its drunkenness and returns like a fairy tale. Even a German world champion has experienced how glorious fame can taste. Another, later world champion, let himself be chatted about. From those for whom football is only a means to miraculously increase money, from the dubious shopkeepers and the men from the back rooms.

We, therefore, distinguish four categories of these players:

  1. Players whose talent was underestimated and who made it to the top via detours
  1. Soccer players who first kicked in the amateur arena or who came all the way to the top as career changers
  1. Professionals who were regarded as failed and showed it to all critics
  1. Players who already had a big name as pros but fell from the top to the bottom and eventually came back.

Lars Leese – The story of the goalkeeper from the Rhineland, who overnight becomes the “Mister Cinderella” in England, was brilliantly literalized by Ronald Reng in The Dream Keeper 2002. The book becomes a bestseller because it tells a true story that you can't really think of more beautifully and which every amateur footballer secretly dreams of.

And it starts like this: Lars Leese, who never plays a Bundesliga game at Bayer Leverkusen and can only be seen as the 3rd goalkeeper in the team photo for the 1996/97 season, unexpectedly changes to Premier League promoted FC Barnsley in 1997. On the island, the 1.97 m giant becomes the hero of the fans with only 18 league appearances. A local writer in Barnsley even dedicates a poem to him.

Poetry and truth are not so far apart in the work of Lars Leese, now 48 years old. He worked as a car salesman in the Westerwald, where he made his first career steps in Neitersen. His biggest thing “The Dream Keeper” delivers in the season 1997/98 at the Anfield Road in Liverpool. Against the Reds, the German goalkeeper giant drives the star strikers to despair. Leese can't believe it himself: “I've risen from the ashes like a phoenix, from the district league to the Premier League. Then I play a few matches and play a decisive role in ensuring that we win at such a place of worship.”

For the dream keeper, the Premier League adventure comes to an end with his relegation in 1999. “Later, to put it bluntly, I disappeared into oblivion again,” he says years later. Prussia Cologne, Borussia Mönchengladbach II, and 1st FC Cologne II. From the dream. “But,” says Leese, “nobody can take Liverpool away from me anymore.”There are players who could play for a lifetime without being noticed. Carsten Linke, now 53, almost became one.

Until 1988, when he was 22 years old, the defensive all-rounder played for VfL Bad Zwischenahn in the Ammerland region of Germany, who are not known for their footballing exploits regardless of their reputation. More football province is almost impossible. In 1988 he managed to make the leap into the 2nd league relatively late via VfB Oldenburg. Next stage is FC Homburg, but in 1993 the two-time first division team from Saarland stopped playing the professional fiddle in German football.

In 1995 Linke changed to Hannover 96 after a stopover at the 1st FC Saarbrücken and experienced pretty much everything with the leaking traditional club. He was relegated to the regional league, returned to the 2nd league and finally climbed to the Bundesliga in 2002 under Ralf Rangnick.

After a total of 314 matches in the “House of Commons” for Oldenburg, Homburg and Hanover, the left-wing player, mostly used as a central defender, makes his first Bundesliga game at the tender age of 36. On August 11, 2002, he becomes the fifth oldest debutant of the league history at the 1:2 in Hamburg. The fans of Hannover 96 always call to Left's name the magic addition ” Football God ” in the line-up and he says goodbye in 2003 after 15 first league missions and a goal in the 2:2 against VfL Bochum into the well-deserved retirement.FC Bayern as an ice-cold soccer machine with a big-time deposit account? We can forget this cliché! Law student Nicolas Feldhahn, 32, shows that even the record champion and industry giant still has wondrous player stories to tell.

Feldhahn is studying law at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. He simultaneously plays football. In 2004 he received a professional contract with the former Bundesliga club SpVgg Unterhaching. This contract lapses after the relegation of Hachinger from the 2nd league.

Also at the end of his 2nd professional stage, near Erzgebirge Aue, the relegation from the football lower house stands for the law student. The defensive midfielder moves to the 3rd league, to Werder Bremen II and later to VfL Osnabrück. The former junior player from 1860 Munich will experience a surprising turnaround in the summer of 2015. Feldhahn has the chance to terminate his contract in Osnabrück and to return to his home in Munich. He receives an amateur contract with FC Bayern Munich and is suddenly in the limelight after EURO 2016.

In the Supercup final against Borussia Dortmund, the new Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti brings him into the team and he receives the trophy after the match. “A gigantic feeling,” he later told the BILD newspaper. In April 2017, Ancelotti will take him back to the Champions League quarter-finals in Madrid. “When I'm needed, I'm ready,” says Feldhahn. But he won't be used.When you're 23, you're actually out as a soccer player. No scout has you on the list anymore, no great coach touches you with pincers.

The same goes for Hendrik Weydandt (23). The top scorer of the men's team of TSV Groß Munzel (Lower Saxony) would have deserved multiple mentions with his 23 goals in at least 25 matches in the district league Hannover-Land (relay 3).

The striker tries his luck at the 1. FC Germania Egestorf/Langreder from 2014. He scores 41 goals in 97 games in 4 years. Hanover brings him into his 2nd team in 2018. He plays in the Regionalliga Nord. Weydandt receives an amateur contract until 2020. In the preparation, 96 coach André Breitenreiter brings him to the pros and also uses him in the 1st Cup round, 6-0 at the Karlsruher SC. The “contract amateur”, who earned 400 Euros per month until May, is more than just attracting attention with 2 goals.

The reward: On August 25, 2018, Weydandt was in the Bundesliga opener at Werder Bremen (1:1) in Hanover's professional squad. It will be a new miracle in the Weserstadion. He scores 0:1 for “Die Roten” just 81 seconds after his substitution for Takuma Asano to make their Bundesliga debut faster. 2 goals in 5 Bundesliga matches bring him a professional contract in September 2018. Go ahead!I don't want anybody blaspheming the football Palatinate! 5 German world champions from 1954, US legend and World Cup captain Tom Dooley (1994), but also 2 from the successful German World Cup Team from 2014 have learned to kick here.

In addition to Erik Durm from Borussia Dortmund, who was born in Pirmasens, Miroslav Klose, who grew up in the Palatinate, crowns his incredible career with the 2014 World Cup title. Klose's ascent for the newspaper Fußball BILD is “probably the most famous fairytale story” in German football. The Western Palatinate regional league near Blaubach-Diedelkopf and the regional league in Homburg until 1999 seem to be the world of the Polish-born striker. Coach Grand Seigneur Otto Rehhagel only becomes aware of Klose, who was fetched by FC Homburg late at the 1st FC Kaiserslautern. On April 15, 2000, “King Otto” Klose plays against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga for the first time. In 4 years at FCK, Klose scores 44 goals in 120 league games and enchants the fans at Betzenberg with his somersault goal. Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich, and Lazio Rome are the further stages of a picture book career.

What only very few people know: On March 24, 2001, the silent Miro will make his international debut for Germany in the World Cup qualifier against Albania in Leverkusen with a 2-1 winning goal and a somersault. Mehmet Scholl, who will not take part in the 2002 World Cup, denied the team's broadcast and Klose became a vice-world champion in Asia one year later. Until his farewell after the 2014 World Cup and alongside Pelé and Uwe Seeler, he remains the player to meet in 4 different World Championship finals.

After 2 times 3rd place at the home World Championships 2006 and 2010 in South Africa, Klose and “The Team” will finish on July 13, 2014: 1:0 against Argentina in extra time and World Champion! On July 8, 2015, Klose set a record for eternity in the semi-final against Brazil (7-1) with his 16th goal at a World Cup. By the way, the late developer never listened to a junior national team of the DFB…
Kristian Böhnlein is probably what one calls an “After-work Footballer”. He is 28 and works as a banker in Bayreuth and plays football in his spare time.

“In Bayreuth, we were only a team after work, we trained three or four times a week,” Böhnlein told the Munich evening newspaper. He often comes directly from the bank branch to the training ground with his tie and tailor-made suit. Then a dream comes true.

In the summer of 2018, Hobby Kicker Böhnlein moved from SpVgg Bayreuth to his heart club TSV 1860 Munich. Especially helpful: Böhnlein is the financial advisor of 1860 storm tank Sascha Mölders. The fan, who for many years stood with his father and brother in the circle of the “lions” and also followed the German champion of 1966 abroad becomes an 1860 player.

“I'm definitely a late bloomer, didn't know that I'd make it to professional level again,” explains Böhnlein, who makes his “Lion” debut in the cup game against Holstein Kiel. He is substituted in the 64th minute. As a professional in the 3rd league of the 1860 Munich returnee, he will no longer be active as a banker in the 2 years in which his contract runs.Actually, it can't look much darker for a footballer than it does for Daniel Keita-Ruel. The 29-year-old has spent almost four years of his life in prison.

Together with 7 accomplices, Keita-Ruel has demonstrably robbed two post offices and a DIY store in 2011. The loot is measly in comparison to the earning potential in professional football: 100,000 Euros is said to have been stolen. In 2012, Keita-Ruel received five years' imprisonment for armed robbery, of which he had to serve three years in a closed prison. In 2014, the striker from Wuppertal receives the often quoted “second chance”.

The upper league team Ratingen hires the junior player from Borussia Mönchengladbach, who was on the ball for the former Bundesliga teams Wuppertaler SV and Bonner SC until his arrest and who obviously has a mental problem. Max Eberl once said about me: “From neck to toe he is Bundesliga, but the head is Kreisliga”, Keita-Ruel once told the W. A. Z. In the summer of 2017, he moves into the 3rd league, to the ex-first league team Fortuna Köln and attracts attention with 15 goals and 7 draws.

Also known as the “Big Boy”, as the 1.88 m tall striker, who has the stature of a middleweight boxer, moves to SpVgg Greuther Fürth in 2018 in the 2nd league and suddenly has the chance of a lifetime. Keita-Ruel is in the starting line-up for the first round of the DFB Cup against Borussia Dortmund (1:2 n. V.).The big wave of refugees in 2015 also brings Bakery Jatta, now 20 years old, to Germany. The young man from Gambia first comes to Bremen.

In his West African homeland, Jatta had previously only played in a kind of football school. But never in a club. After a trial training at Werder Bremen, the offensive player first receives a preliminary contract with the Grünweißen. However, Jatta's services are secured by the northern rival Hamburger SV. At the beginning of January 2016, Jatta also plays for HSV and convinces coach Bruno Labbadia.

He receives a three-year contract in Hamburg. The success story “From refugee to HSV professional” makes it into the focus of the media worldwide. Jatta makes his Bundesliga debut on April 16, 2017 in the 1:2 away defeat against Werder Bremen, when he is substituted for Filip Kostic in the 83rd minute.

In his first year at HSV, he will play a total of six Bundesliga matches. On the 4th match day of the 2017/18 season, a 0-2 away defeat against Hannover 96 gives the African for the first time in the starting eleven of Hamburg. He scores his first goal on November 14, 2018 in a 3-1 defeat at Erzgebirge Aue but in the 2nd league.TUS Sulingen near Bremen of the VfB Oldenburg and then across the Betzenberg with 26 into the Bundesliga! This is Michael Schulz's (57) way into the football spotlight. He becomes one of the most popular autodidacts of the league.

The 1.94 m tall police officer could have let things run their course. Police trainer, sometime a quiet desk post and pension a few years later. For a long time, Schulz didn't feel called to professional football.

That changes with his time at the 1st FC Kaiserslautern. The bull in FCK dress is robust and strong on the header and quickly plays his way into the hearts of the fans at “Betze”. With FC Kaiserslautern, he averts relegation from the Bundesliga and with Germany in 1988 where he takes Olympic bronze in Seoul. Michael Schulz joins the DFB Cup winner Borussia Dortmund in 1989. At BVB he became a national player and experienced the legendary UEFA Cup games in 1992/93 and the runners-up championship in 1992 with Schwarzgelb. The BVB fans carried Schulz off the pitch in Duisburg after the last match day despite losing the championship cup a few minutes before the end.

This football year is the crowning glory for Tall Hendrik: In 1992, Berti Vogts appointed him to the European Championship team of the German national team. In Sweden, Schulz and the DFB team become vice European champions. All it takes are 7 international matches to reach a big final. A title is denied to the career changer because he somehow always manages to change clubs one year before a great success. That goes for him in 1989 in Lautern and 1994 in Dortmund when he changes to Werder Bremen…That Jamie Vardy! Born in 1987 in Sheffield, he is something like the most famous partygoer in the Premier League. Nothing, but nothing at all, indicates before 2012 that this haggard guy, who has left nothing out in his life, will change the English football elite.

He was rejected at 15 on Sheffield Wednesday. Too slim, they say. Vardy worked in a carbon fiber factory. He becomes an amateur kicker at the Stocksbridge Park Steelers, serving all the clichés of the football poll with drinking orgies and fast food from the gas station. When Vardy afforded a stadium brawl with bodily injury in 2007, he had to wear an electronic ankle cuff for 6 long months and was also placed under curfew between 6 am and 6 pm. This makes it extremely difficult for him to play on the football pitch. A judicial officer is always at the gang or near the changing room. “I had to make sure I got home on time,” Vardy told the Leicester Mercury newspaper in October 2015, “I often didn't know how our game turned out.

Halifax Town FC, the seventh-ranked FC, is finally going to cost Vardys 170,000 euros for his goalscoring qualities in 2010. A worthwhile deal: with 27 goals in 37 league games, Vardy shoots the club to the championship, moving to Fleetwood in 2011. “We knew he was a special player,” said former head David Bosomworth of Halifax, “he was hungry, passionate and extremely diligent. Vardy's formula for success seems to confirm this. “I've always tried not to have big dreams and slowly work my way up,” says the late riser. This reticence and his closeness to his fans as Vardy is always available for small talk with the fans on the stadium parking lot make him special. The move to Leicester City from fifth class club Fleetwood Town in summer 2012 is something of a “last chance” in professional football for Jamie Vardy. With 31 goals of the season and 17 draws, Vardy has played a decisive role in Fleetwood Town's first promotion to a professional league. Curious: Of the up to 30 scouts and player observers at Fleetwood's Highbury Stadium, only Leicester scout Nigel Pearson (53) recognizes Vardy's potential. He fetches Vardy for 1.24 million Euros, a record in English amateur football. At Leicester City, Vardy contributes a total of 16 goals to the return to the Premier League in 2013/2014. The year 2015/2016 was the fairytale year of Jamie Vardy: Premier League champions with Leicester City, setting the goal record of Ruud van Nistelrooy with at least one goal in 11 consecutive Premier League matches.

His escapades are long gone. Today they are part of the Vardy cult. As Fangesang Jamie Vardy's having Party – Bring your Vodka and your Charlie (Jamie Vardy gives a party, brings your vodka and cocaine”) they find their way to the stands of the King Power Stadium and to the matches of the English national team, for which Vardy makes his debut on June 7, 2015, at the age of 28. A story to the taste of Hollywood authors. British producer Adrian Butchart is a regular at Vardy's stadium box in Leicester. According to media reports, he is planning a film adaptation under the title Jamie Vardy: The Movie which will be released in the near future. It could be a Hit.
On January 20, 2018, one of the craziest comebacks in German football history takes place in the 3rd league match of FC Carl Zeiss Jena against Fortuna Cologne. Kevin Pannewitz (27), the former Hansa Rostock professional, returns to paid football after 2,099 days or almost six years!

The defensive all-rounder once praised as one of the greatest talents in the DFB sighting courses has lost almost 30 kilos in order to return to competition level. “For me, it was felt like the tenth-second chance,” the Berliner explained afterward, “but it was very nice.

Pannewitz fights his way back into the limelight with admirable discipline after he seems to have been knocked off the planet after his contract with VfL Wolfsburg was terminated in 2012. He occasionally kicks in the 6th league, worked as a refrigerator tractor and janitor as well as weighing up to 125 kilos with a body length of 1.85 m. This is the figure of a bar soccer player. Kevin Pannewitz – Few observers would have imagined that the 27-year-old would play a professional game again on January 28, 2018, with FC Jena against FC Halle.

The least likely was he himself. “I only lost to myself,” explained the defensive player who failed as a “sloppy genius” in the Bundesliga after VfL Wolfsburg threw him out in 2012. Disciplinary fanatic Felix Magath gives him up: “Pannewitz is Panne”. He made his debut with FC Hansa Rostock when he was 17. Booze rides and obesity lead to several suspensions at the Baltic Sea. Now he reports back. His work record in the 2018/2019 third league season: 11 compulsory matches and 2 goal participations. This is anything but a breakdown.The man's been through something. The arms are tattooed and in his angular face, every year of his life seems to be carved. Dean Windass, a striker of the English sensation climber Hull City, is gasping for air after every sprint. A beer belly bulges under his jersey. Actually, this cozy guy fulfills the requirements of an English soccer bum and not that of a highly paid professional in the Premier League. 

In 2008, the tired warrior Windass looks like a relic from the booze and rallies of English football. But Windass is a cult. It is celebrated by 3,000 fans at the opening of the new fan shop in Hull's city center at the end of October 2008. In Hull, they know what they owe to Windass. With his 1-0 winning goal in the play-off match against Bristol City on May 24, 2008 in Wembley, Deano shoots the Tigers of Hull City into the highest English league for the first time in their 104-year club history and secures the club additional income of around 90 million Euros which can now be earned in the Premier League.

Dean Windass's stroke of genius, a direct inspection from 16 meters, brought the club and the city into the headlines throughout Europe, and the Hull City Council thought loudly about erecting a monument to the guy with the boxer's nose. Windass strongly rejects this: “I'm not a legend”, the football veteran rumbles, “I don't like this word. The people who really give everything for their country are our soldiers in Iraq. I'm just a footballer who gets a lot of money for what he enjoys.”

But for Windass it's all over. Scandals pave the way before he can cheer in Wembley in May 2008. Dean Windass, born on April 1, 1969, in Hull, grew up in the problem district of Gipsyville and hasn't left out much in his eventful life. “The boy named Windarsch”, says the author Matthias Paskowsky in the magazine 11 FREUNDE, “probably never had to beg for ridicule”. He is a separated child, works as a bricklayer and fills frozen peas in cans during his numerous odd jobs, including in a factory. Dean Windass is a drunk and bed-wetter, beats his wife, riots at away games in the hotel room and is the full soccer proletarian program of the 1980s and early 1990s. Dean Windass and his peculiar career provide enough material for a book. The autobiography Deano – From Gipsyville to the Premier League will be published in October 2007 well before Hull's promotion to England's elite league. The author probably knew it before…Sandro Wagner would probably have stayed on the winner photo of the 2009 U21 European Champions as one of those who didn't make it to the top.

Between the later world champions, Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Höwedes, Jérome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira, the two-time goal scorer from the final in Malmö 2009 a few years later really looks like one who missed the train to somewhere. Sandro Wagner of FC Bayern Munich, who had already signed with MSV Duisburg for the U21 European Championship, changed clubs like shirts in the following years.

His stages are Werder Bremen and also the second team of the Hanseaten. He will then head from Bremen to 1. FC Kaiserslautern, whose relegation Wagner 2012 cannot prevent. The striker remains without a goal in 11 Bundesliga matches for FCK. It will last him the longest at Hertha BSC between 2012 and 2015. The fact that he still wins before the goal is shown in 2015/2016 in the position of the Bundesliga rising star SV Darmstadt 98. After the Hessians manage to get the league on the 33rd matchday in Berlin of all places, the extroverted Wagner is booed out of the Olympic stadium after being sent off. He is still considered difficult to place. That changed in 2016, with the move to 1899 Hoffenheim.

With the Kraichgauern, Wagner moves into CL qualification and returns to FC Bayern Munich in the 2017 winter. There he will be hired as a “backup” for striker star Robert Lewandowski. But Wagner finally plays his way into the senior national team with 8 goals in 18 league games. Joachim Löw takes him to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, where Wagner triumphs with the DFB team. Nevertheless, the World Cup doesn't work out. When Löw does not nominate him for the final round in 2018, Wagner resigns from the national team insulted. “It's clear to me that with my way of always addressing things openly, honestly and directly, I don't seem to fit in with the team of coaches,” he adds at the end.Lassana Diarra – Born and educated in Paris, the 32-year-old midfielder has had successful years in the English Premier League with Arsenal and Chelsea. He never gets lucky there.

Celebrated at Olympique Marseille in February 2017, he returns to one of the most dazzling clubs in the world: Paris St.-Germain after a season in the footballingly insignificant Persian Gulf and months of clublessness.

These are not easy times for Lassana Diarra. The blackest day of his football career will be on November 13, 2015. His cousin dies in the terrorist attacks in Paris, while Diarra plays with the French national team against Germany (2:0) in the equally threatened Stade de France.

Diarra has had a real football odyssey until his return to Paris. Curly by the millions of the owner of Anzhi Makhachkala, Diarra moves to the Russian Premier League in 2012. The financial realignment of the club, which spends huge sums on aging stars, brings the ex-professional from Real Madrid to the locomotive Moscow in 2013 before he moves to the United Arab Emirates. He remains without a game at the Al-Jazira Club in the Gulf State.Oliver Bierhoff and the Bundesliga that doesn't fit. 4 goals in 31 games for Bayer 05 Uerdingen, 6 goals in 34 matches between 1988 and 1990 for HSV and 8 games without a goal for Borussia Mönchengladbach 1990 even the greatest experts in football Germany at the beginning of the decade do not dream of the Wembley winning goal scorer being scared away abroad in 1996. Bierhoff moves to Casino Salzburg in Austria. The change of air in Salzburger Land did him good.

The 1.91 m tall attacker scores 23 goals in 32 Bundesliga matches in Austria and becomes the top scorer. The scouts from the Italian Serie A, regularly on the grandstands of the Austrian league, looked closely. Inter Milan signed the 23-year-old but lent him directly to Ascoli Calcio.

For Bierhoff, the city in central Italy is exactly the right place to keep scoring goals. In 4 years in Series B, Bierhoff once again draws attention to itself with 48 goals in 117 games. Udinese Calcio takes up the challenge and brings him into Serie A. Bierhoff achieves the greatest success of his career in the company of Udinese. In his 8th international match on June 30, 1996, he made Germany the European Champion with two goals in the final against the Czech Republic (2:1 n. V.). As joker for Mehmet Scholl, Bierhoff becomes the new superstar of German football overnight with his historic “Golden Goal”.

His fabulous score of 57 goals in 86 games led to his commitment by AC Milan in 1998. 12.5 million Euros for a 29-year-old is not a bad investment. Oliver Bierhoff pays back at Milan with 21 goal participations on the way to the 1998/99 championship title. The question remains: why didn't anyone notice this in Uerdingen, Hamburg, and Gladbach?
The hero from the 1954 World Cup finals in Bern must then recount “the third goal” too often at the bar.

Rahn slips off. He has alcohol problems, is subject to disciplinary punishment and loses his driving license. Finally, he is sentenced to prison on probation. After a season with 1. FC Cologne (1959/60), “The Boss” is gone. He changes to the Dutch no-name club SC Enschede, seems to have disappeared from the scene despite 39 goals scored in 69 games. At the beginning of the 1960s, foreign football appeared in the German media only in the results columns of specialist magazines.

The winning scorer for the 1954 World Cup title retired from the national team as early as 1960. With the beginning of 1963, a new football era has begun in Germany. The Bundesliga starts on August 24, 1963 – and what could be better for the 16 clubs in the premiere season than to win the active world champions of 1954? Almost 10 years after their incredible triumph in the final against Hungary, the radiance of the “Heroes of Bern” remains almost unbroken. Max Morlock is in the new elite league for 1st FC Nuremberg. Coach Rudi Gutendorf succeeds in getting Rahn back from Holland and guiding him to Meidericher SV in Duisburg.

It has become much fuller, but still as dangerous as it once was in Bern, “The Boss” once again shows it to everyone. He scored 8 goals in 18 games in the premiere season of the Bundesliga. Not bad for a 34-year-old. Rahn becomes German runner-up with the MSV. His world champion colleague Hans “De Knoll” Schäfer is allowed to stretch the first championship cup of the Bundesliga era with the 1st FC Cologne. Rahn dies in 2003 in his hometown Essen. He no longer experiences the premiere of the cinema film “The miracle of Bern” with his own heroic deeds in the cinematic realization.Sócrates. The legendary Brazilian is probably taking the longest break of all the professionals we present here.

The 60-times international and leading player of the “Selecao” disappears like no other in the immersion. Perhaps it has to do with the missed penalty in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals against France. Sócrates, whose hallmarks are penalties shot from a standing start, is giving his ball to the “Equipe Tricolore”. Brazil cries again after 1982.

In addition to the uncrowned “white pelé” Zico and Falcao, Sócrates also retires from the Brazilian national team. The trail of chain smokers such as Sócrates puffing up to 20 cigarettes a day and convinced grassroots democrats is lost in the following years. In 1988/89 he is listed for the last time at the Pelé club FC Santos.

Sócrates works in a hospital in Ribeirão Preto in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo as a pediatrician. He missed the 1978 World Cup due to his medical studies. When on November 21, 2004, almost 20 years after his last international match for Brazil, he appeared unexpectedly at the English amateur club Garforth Town, the English gazettes tried to hear the TV reporter's cheer after winning the World Cup in 1966 (“They think, it's all over now – It is now!”). “Sócrates – They think, it's was all over and it isn't,” headlines the Daily Telegraph. At 50, Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, with his belly and grey beard, is actually running again for the nine-class English club. It's a favor for Garforth's patron who has a contract for a month. On December 4, 2011, Sócrates dies in a hospital in Sao Paulo of Sepsis after intestinal bleeding. With only 57 years.Arsenal's club legend Tony Adams (51), who was drunk to the bone in his Southend-at-Sea home in the pre-Christmas period of 1990, rams into a wall with his car.

The new drunken trip of the Arsenal captain, who pays bills of up to 8,700 Euros in bars and pubs and has a loyal drinking companion with his teammate Paul “Merse” Merson (“We were like two tornados – in different parts of London”), “Big Tone” is expensive.

Adams ends up in prison for 3 months. His alcohol problems threaten his very existence. Adams has been a professional Gunner since 1985. At 21, he is the youngest team captain in the history of the traditional club from the north of London. But his drunkenness has long been an open secret in England. Now he seems to have come to the end.

But coach George Graham pardons him at the end of February. Tony returns to Arsenal on suspicion in a reserve match against Reading FC on February 16, 1991. The reactions of the fans are overwhelming. Thousands of spectators have gathered in Highbury to sing “There's only one Tony Adams”, a completely unusual performance for the reserve games. Arsenal fan John Williamson remembers 2018: “Normally, only the east stand was opened for reserve matches, but on that day, half an hour before the stadium gates opened, thousands of people crowded towards the entrances. Adams was screamed on the grass by the spectators before the warm-up.” With so much support, “Big Tone” led the Gunners to the championship title in 1991.First betting scandal, then world champion! The star striker from Juventus Turin is involved in a big Italian betting fraud scandal in 1979 and is suspended for 3 years.

It is about a postponed league game in December 1979, AC Perugia against US Avellino (2:2). Rossi's suspension is later eased and shortened to 2 years.

The striker is pardoned a few months before the 1982 World Cup. Although he has no playing experience, national coach Enzo Bearzot put his trust in him and takes him to the World Cup in Spain. Rossi can't justify the trust at first.

However, he does not score a single goal in the preliminary round where Italy remain without victory. Only in the 2nd final round does the knot burst. Rossi scores all three goals for the “Squadra Azzurra” against the tournament favourites Brazil 3:2. With 6 World Cup goals, he shoots Italy to the World Cup title. In the final in Madrid against Germany (3:1), he scores the trend-setting 1:0 and also really scores after winning the title. The goal scorer of the 1982 World Cup also secured the title of “Best Player of the Tournament” – Rossi also became “Europe's Footballer of the Year”.Diego Armando Maradona: Who if not him? The football genius from Argentina has to accept a 15-month cocaine ban after 7 successful years at the SSC Naples in 1991.

Before that, he led SSC Naples, which until his arrival in Italy was not one of the top clubs, to undreamt-of heights. With “El Diego”, whether in a coke frenzy or not, Napoli has achieved successes that still shape the cityscape under Vesuvius today. The Italian champion in 1990, double winner in 1987 and UEFA Cup winner in 1989 against VfB Stuttgart. Wall paintings by Maradona, icons, posters in shop windows still show the glorious 1980s in Bella Napoli. For Diego's heirs, who miss the 2018 Italian championship, it may be difficult to impossible to top the list.

The signs that Italy has had enough of Maradona are already increasing for the 1990 World Cup. Rumors about his cocaine addiction and tax evasion already exist at this time. After Argentina lost 0:1 against Germany in the final in Rome, the Italian spectators are ruthlessly blowing his whistle. “Maradona would be well advised to leave Italy,” said ex-Inter professional Hansi Müller, acting as Eurosport co-commentator. This flight is not long in coming.

After his return from Italy, Diego Armando Maradona is also sentenced to 14 months probation in his home country of Argentina. To somehow get back to competition level, Diego trains with another fallen hero of the sport: Olympic doping sinner Ben Johnson. The football star, who has been copied by many media, makes an incredible comeback. In 1992, Maradona returned to the big stage at FC Sevilla in the Spanish Primera Division. Even the second doping ban at the 1994 World Cup cannot send the indestructible Argentinean into retirement. In 1995, Maradona once again performed at his regular club, Boca Juniors, under incredible storms of enthusiasm


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