Connect with us
The tragic hero of Brasilian football - Socrates. Image: Getty Images


Fate Was Not Kind To These 12 Soccer Icons

If you manage to make a name for yourself in international football, this is usually a good prerequisite for a happy life. If you manage to play for your country or even take part in a World Cup, chances are that the rest of your life will also be successful and free from worries.

However, sometimes things went terribly wrong. Former soccer icons ended up in poverty or misery. Some became alcoholics or committed suicide. Others died far too early in tragic accidents, had psychological problems or became seriously ill.

We tell 12 of the most tragic stories in recent football history. Soccer heroes who suffered horrible misfortunes after their careers had ended. They come from different countries and different eras in football. From the beginnings of professional football, the golden age of football enthusiasm from 1945 to 1970, and the globalised football scene of the last 50 years.

They include all kinds of footballers. Brilliant strikers, graceful midfielders, goalkeepers with that special something and uncompromising defenders who simply weren’t able to manage their lives. Maybe they were missing the glory on the pitch, the fact that they were no longer in the public eye, the admiration of the fans. Or maybe they just hadn't learned how to cope with life outside of the arena. Fate was not kind to these soccer icons.Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira (known as Dr Sócrates; * 19 February 1954 in Belém; † 4 December 2011 in São Paulo) was a Brazilian football player and paediatrician. Socrates is the epitome of the tragic hero. In August 2011, Sócrates was hospitalized with gastric bleeding and an inflamed liver and spent several days in intensive care. It was in this context that he revealed his drinking problems. On 4 December 2011, at the age of 57, he died in São Paulo of sepsis caused by an intestinal infection.

Socrates made his debut in the Seleção on 17 May 1979 against Paraguay and went on to play in 60 games for the national football team of Brazil. The midfielder scored 22 goals. Sócrates was Brazil's captain at the 1982 Football World Cup in Spain and 1986 in Mexico. The man with the longest name among all officially registered World Cup participants was the driving force behind Brazil's offense in the 1980s. Together with Zico, Falcão and Toninho Cerezo, Sócrates formed Brazil's “magical midfield quartet”, also known as the “Fantastic Four”.

Despite being the heavy favourites multiple times, especially during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, this team never managed to win the title of world champions. In Brazil, however, they are still widely considered to be one of the best Seleção of all time, together with Pelé's 1970 World Cup squad.

The elimination from the 1986 World Cup was particularly unfortunate, as the team suffered a disastrous defeat just before the semi-finals. Sócrates, who always shot penalties from a standing position, missed. Platini and Júlio César also missed, and France won the penalty shootout 4-3. After the World Cup, Sócrates retired from the national team.Falcão and Zico also retired, which marked the end of one of the most significant eras of the Brazilian national team. However, ultimately, it was also one of the least successful. The title of World Cup winners always eluded them.

Socrates later revealed that he smoked 20 cigarettes a day, trained little, but celebrated all the more. At Corinthians São Paulo, he enforced grass-roots democratic structures (the so-called Democracia Corinthiana), allowing the players to decide everything. From the training times to the diet plan. Sócrates, who was 192 cm tall but only had a shoe size of 41 and was famous for his heel kicks and steep passes with his heel, was considered the enfant terrible of Brazilian football.

He urged the fans to stand up against the military dictatorship at the time and to support democracy. Among his supporters in football and politics were communist and left-wing defender Vladimir and young Walter Casagrande. During the two national championships in 1982 and 1983, Casagrande and the Democracia Corintiana repeatedly used the football pitch to demonstrate their political attitude, for example by wearing jerseys with the slogan “Democracy Now”.

Sócrates was a medical student, which is why he was also called Dr Sócrates. Because he completed his studies while already playing professional football, he missed out on the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. In 1983, he gave the following reply after being asked how he wanted to die: “I want to die on a Sunday and for Corinthians to become champion”. Sócrates did die on a Sunday. And a few hours later, Corinthians won the championship.Paul Gascoigne was once England’s greatest footballer. Today, the former legend has been looking like a ghost during various public appearances and has failed several alcohol rehabs. How could it have come this far?

One of the reasons: Gascoigne never managed to get rid of the role of class prankster. Despite being a gifted footballer, he was the notorious clown in every team cabin. And even today, people chuckle over classic stories about the ex-professional, whose life is marked by alcohol and drug addiction.

For instance when he tells the story of how he switched the football boots of every player on his team. Or how he drove a bus full of tourists around Piccadilly Circus. That’s what the people of England love him for. Boozing is still socially acceptable in the country.

The sad truth, however, is that shortly after his career, Gascoigne’s story was already far from a laughing matter. After a wild public appearance of the former star, Gascoigne’s manager told the BBC that his client was in grave mortal danger. “He urgently needs help”2015 marked a low point in the life of the man who was once England's greatest footballer, the hope of a sporting nation. How could it have come to this?

Indeed, the young Paul Gascoigne had everything you need for a good sports story. He came from a poor background, learned how to play with a tennis ball because his parents couldn't afford a football. And he was soon discovered as a great talent and was signed by Tottenham Hotspur.

In 1988, he was voted “Young Footballer of the Year”. But the real breakthrough for Gazza came at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where he played outstanding football and led England to the semi-finals. The scene in which Gascoigne received his second yellow card in the match against Germany – and cried uncontrollably into his jersey because he would have been banned for a possible final – is unforgotten. However, it didn't come to that: The penalty shoot-out against Germany was the final stop, England was eliminated. Perhaps “Gazza” was never better than during this World Cup – a strong dribbler and fighter, a driving force with unorthodox ideas.

And yet, the Englishman's self-destructive side already existed back then. In his autobiography, he later described how he couldn't sleep the night before the Germany game. He had wandered restlessly through the hotel and eventually took part in a tennis match against two Americans on the hotel's court. On the night before the most important match of his career.Later on, Gascoigne increasingly turned to alcohol and medication to combat his insomnia. Constant injuries and a lack of discipline impeded his career. During breaks from football, he discovered alcohol as a remedy for loneliness and boredom.

In 1992, Gascoigne joined Lazio Rome, and, after a few disappointing years in Italy, he was transferred to the Glasgow Rangers. Things worked out better for him there, but again and again his private escapades caused him to make the headlines.

14 weeks after their wedding, he beat his wife Sheryl so badly that she had to be hospitalised. After the costly divorce and various drunken excesses, “Gazza” was admitted into a rehab clinic in 1998.

“If things continue this way, Gascoigne won't even make 40”, is how German football magazine “Kicker” described it back then.In England, binge drinking and boozing are still a significant part of life, not just among the working class, but also among the middle and upper classes.

“Drunk as a lord” is still a typical expression today, in the same way that the old customs of binge drinking or drinking competitions are still important among the working class. Gascoigne's achievements during the later stages of his career are all the more astounding. In 2002, when he was under contract with Everton, he fuelled up – as he later described the incident in an interview – with three and a half bottles of wine, two triple brandies and 13 sleeping pills the night before the match against Sunderland.

Gascoigne played, drove home and fell asleep. After waking up the next morning, he later said he had remembered nothing. Next to his bed was an empty bottle of champagne. He had been voted “Man of the Match”. However, such glimmers of hope could not hide the fact that his athletic career was already on a steep descent. In the end, he was moving from club to club, trying to find success with contracts in England's second league, in China and Portugal, and finally, in 2005, as manager of Kettering Town, a club in England’s sixth league.

He was fired after just 39 days – Gascoigne had been “drunk before, during and after the first team's matches,” according to the club leadership. Meanwhile, his list of alcohol and drug escapades became more and more impressive.“Four bottles of whiskey and 16 lines of coke” was Gascoigne’s daily consumption at the time – every single day.

In 2008, he was placed in a psychiatric ward three times, once after showing up drunk and confused in a London hairdressing salon. The fallen star spent half a year in a rehab facility and then moved to an apartment by the sea in Bournemouth.

At first, it seemed like he had got his life under control just in time. However, this was followed by a shocking appearance at the charity gala in Northampton. Something, it seemed, had once again thrown Gascoigne off track. His next stint in rehab followed. Radio presenter Chris Evans, cricket player Ronnie Irani, ex-football star Gary Lineker and TV presenter Piers Morgan put him on a plane to Phoenix, Arizona, according to the Sun. Because Gascoigne was broke, it is said that they also covered the costs of the rehab clinic there.

Naturally, the tabloids kept track of him in the US as well. Immediately after arriving in Phoenix, a picture of Gascoigne was published in the Sun. It showed Gascoigne sitting in an airport bar. He had ordered a large glass of beer.Gerd Müller is suffering from Alzheimer's. The “Bomber of the Nation” – or fat little Müller, as his first coach in professional football, Tschick Cajkovski, called him in the 60s.

From a physical point of view, Gerd Müller certainly wasn't the most impressive football player – not even in his heyday. However, for a time, he was the best striker in the world. Gerd Müller scored 398 goals in 453 league games. And he scored 68 international goals for Germany in 62 international matches. That is an average of more than one goal per international match.

At the time of his retirement, he was top scorer at the World Cup with 14 goals. What made him special was his ability to move in the tightest of spaces, leave opponents in the dust and score goals from the most impossible of situations. Nobody in the world could do that as well as him. He is still a role model for a whole group of centre-forwards who don't stand out for their size or physical presence, but rather for their agility, reflexes and capacity to anticipate situations.

As well as Gerd Müller navigated the pitch, he never did find his way in life after his footballing career had ended. At the end of the 70s, he moved to Florida in the US. This is where Müller’s problems with alcohol started.The tragic thing about Gerd Müller's career is that the “Bomber of the Nation”, who emigrated to Florida in 1979 in anger over a substitution, never found his place in life after playing his last game for the Orlando Smith Brothers in Fort Lauderdale.

At least no place that truly made him happy. After three years in the US, he returned to Munich, 8 years after he had led Germany to the World Cup title. From a personal and financial perspective, his life was completely empty.

The public first found out about Müller's problems in September 1991. Because he showed up drunk out of his mind at a training session of Bayern Munich, because his wife wanted to divorce him, and because the German tax authorities seized two of his apartments.

He didn't have what it takes to be an authoritarian manager, a clever executive or an eloquent TV expert, as everyone who knew the trained weaver was well aware of. “You're not a man of many words. You scored the goals without talking much.” This is how Franz Beckenbauer characterized Gerd Müller during his laudation speech in 2003, when Müller was named the most valuable Bundesliga player of all time.The hero of a generation turned into a laughing stock – that was too much for Bayern to stomach. That's why they lent him a helping hand. It was badly needed, he had hit rock bottom. “Things couldn’t have turned out any worse. You’re on top, feeling like you’re on cloud nine. And then you keep falling lower and lower. Suddenly you find yourself in hell”, is how he once described his life in an interview.

“I was in a lot of pain, and without the help of my friends, I probably wouldn’t have made it.” His friends: first and foremost “Uli, Franz and Kalle”, as he describes his former teammates. Hoeneß, Beckenbauer, Rummenigge – they all used to play, win and celebrate with him. Now it was time to give something back. However, nobody cared much about his goals in 1982.

“Just not doing anything. Sitting around all day and doing nothing meaningful – that was the downfall”, is how he analysed his escape into alcoholism. “At celebrity games”, his companion Uli Hoeneß ranted, “they got him drunk and then made fun of him”. So they persuaded him to go into rehab, and he also sought psychiatric help. His wife reconsidered their divorce. However, his biggest help probably came in the form of the worst paid contract he had ever been given by FC Bayern: From 1992, he was once again employed by the club he loved with all his heart, and his interviews took on a different tone: “I am utterly happy and I am busy”, he said in 1993, when he was allowed to train Bayern’s youth team.

In addition, he has worked as sponsor supervisor, talent scout, striker and goalkeeper coach, co-manager for the professionals and most recently for the amateurs. But then he was struck by Alzheimer's disease. That must have been around 2014. The last stage in the life of the Bomber of the Nation.
He had two crooked legs. In addition, one leg was 6 centimetres shorter than the other. As a consequence, he always looked as if he was about to fall over.

However, Manoel Francisco dos Santos, called Garrincha, never fell, unless his opponents had kicked him in the legs repeatedly. Manoel Francisco dos Santos received many names in his short life. The lightness of his game gave him the nickname Garrincha, or little bird. Because he was born with legs that looked like an O and a X, he was also called the “Angel with the Crooked Legs”.

And when he was famous, he became “Alegria de Povo”, the Joy of the Nation. In his chronicles, author Nelson Rodrigues called him the Charlie Chaplin of football. And indeed, watching the dancing winger play in the little footage that is available of Garrincha’s matches, does look like slapstick. It was usually the same trick, he feigned, once, twice, rocked his upper body, jumped back and forth, waited, and suddenly left the opponent behind. Sometimes he would pause for the defender to catch up with him, just so he could circle the ball around him once one more time and pass him again.

Garrincha was a Malandro, a rascal, a scoundrel – a figure that remains one of the most iconic in Brazilian football to this day. Players such as Edmundo and Romário were Malandros. Josimar was one too. The right-back who emerged out of nowhere during the 1986 World Cup, scored two incredible goals almost from the corner flag, then disappeared from the limelight and ended up in the drug world.Robinho and to some extent Neymar are also players of this type. But the Godfather of all Malandros was Garrincha, a double world champion in 1958 and 1962 with Brazil, right-winger at Botafogo in Rio, a Malandro and Mulherengo, a womaniser from the small town of Pau Grande.

In Brazil, it is said that Pelé is treasured. But it is “Mané” Garrincha who is worshipped. When Garrincha played the game, there were no yellow cards, and other players constantly kicked and fouled him without being punished. It's questionable whether he would be better today, maybe even a world star, in the condensed midfield of modern football and with the flashing lights of electronic media. When Garrincha rose to fame during the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the spectators in the stadiums were the first to realise that they were watching the debut of an exceptional footballer.

People had never seen something like this before, all the tricks, feints, this pure, almost naive joy of playing. He invented tricks, developed others further, intuitively did things that other players would have to rehearse for years. The championship in 1958, which eased the trauma of the lost 1950 World Cup in their own country, turned Garrincha into a national symbol almost overnight. He mobilised the population of a country that staggered from one political crisis to the next, a country that had freed itself from colonial rule through its own efforts. The Seleção united the people.

And Garrincha was worshipped, even though his difficulties with life away from the football pitch were obvious. He started drinking at an early age, probably to bear the pain in his crippled legs. He was involved in several car accidents, couldn't manage his money. Not surprisingly, Garrincha is always portrayed as a brilliant footballer, but not a great thinker.However, Garrincha was different than most people – a sensitive person with an alcohol addiction who felt at home in the countryside. When he left his wife and six children in 1966 to live with singer Elza Soares, a mulatto from poor beginnings, it didn’t fit the normal way of life in the Catholic country.

The people of Brazil on the other hand did not abandon their idol. And promptly plunged into a deep depression when Garrincha left the national team in 1966. In 1973, he ended his career with a farewell game in the Maracanã. Afterwards, he soon fell into oblivion. His small pension was not enough money to finance his life. When he died of alcohol poisoning on 20 January 1983 at the age of 49, without a penny in his pocket, Garrincha left behind at least 14 children and an audience that now started to remember him again. Thousands of followers lined the way to his grave.

It was no coincidence that Garrincha's death coincided with the end of “futebol arte”, the classic artistic football of Brazil, which presented football in playful perfection. One year earlier, at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Brazil's fantastic national team of Zico, Sócrates and Falcão had already fallen to the clever Italians in the round of 16. Incidentally, when Pele and Garrincha – Brazil's two most exceptional footballers – played together, they never lost a single game. Garrincha only suffered one defeat during his international career anyway – in his last match for Brazil (a total of 50 appearances, 12 goals), when the Seleção was eliminated in the group stages of the 1966 World Cup in England against Hungary on 15 July (1-3).

His tombstone on “Cemiterio Raiz da Serra” cemetery in Rio de Janeiro bears the inscription: Descanse em paz, que era a alegria do povo – Mané Garrincha. (Here rests in peace the one who was the joy of the people – Mané Garrincha).Nobody gets past God – that was the slogan on a poster in the German Ruhr district during the 1960s. An unknown fan wrote under it: Except Stan Libuda….

Reinhard “Stan” Libuda is still a legend in the Ruhr district today, kind of a German Garrincha. And that applies to both Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund. Incidentally, the nickname Stan is an homage to Sir Stanley Mathews, the legendary right winger from England. The former German national player wore the jersey of both clubs – Schalke 04 and BVB.

The right winger began his career in the youth of Gelsenkirchen, before he was promoted to the professional squad in 1961 and became the fan favourite at Schalke. In 1965, Libuda joined the arch-rival in Dortmund. In 1966, he scored a goal with the most famous banana shot in Germany's history to lead BVB to the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

Two years later, he returned to his favourite club, Schalke 04, and led them to victory in the DFB Cup as captain in 1972. Libuda is the only player who switched between the rival clubs and who is still loved by both fan groups.The time after football was less happy for Libuda. For a long time, especially after separating from his wife, he lived a secluded life in Gelsenkirchen-Haverkamp.

Because he had abandoned his apprenticeship as a machine fitter at the beginning of his career, he was unable to find work for a long time. With the help of former team mate Rolf Rüssmann, he eventually got a job with the Thomas Group, a paper finishing company in Gelsenkirchen.

For a few years thereafter, he ran the tobacco shop on Kurt-Schumacher-Street in Schalke, which he had taken over from club hero Ernst Kuzorra and later handed over to former team mate Heinz van Haaren. Libuda underwent surgery in 1992 because of severe throat cancer. In 1996, he died of a stroke at the age of 63.

He was the first player from the 1970 “match of the century” (Germany lost to Italy in the World Cup semifinals in overtime) to die. The funeral took place at Ostfriedhof cemetary in Gelsenkirchen.Libuda was a legendary dribbler. When preacher Werner Heukelbach used posters with the slogan “Nobody gets past Jesus” to promote a series of religious events in the Ruhr area in the 1960s, fans wrote the following under every poster: “except ‚Stan‘ Libuda”.

Over the years, this coined the slogan “Nobody gets past god – except Stan Libuda”, which was like an early version of the facts about Chuck Norris. The slogan is also the caption of a musical about FC Schalke 04. In 1970, after his defenders had failed to stop the nimble winger during the World Cup in Mexico, Bulgaria’s trainer said the following about Libuda: “You can only stop this man with a rifle.”

In 2003, a fan discovered a spelling mistake on the tombstone of Reinhard Libuda. Reinhard was written with “ai” instead of “ei”. The fan contacted the offices of FC Schalke 04 and manager Rudi Assauer promised to commission a new tombstone. However, it wasn't until 2004 that the tombstone was changed on the initiative and after protests by another Libuda fan.

Stan Libuda's goal in the final of the 1966 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup against Liverpool FC was voted second in the BVB Goal of the Century poll by Borussia Dortmund's fans during the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the club. The access road west of the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen bears the name “Stan-Libuda-Weg”.During the last days of his life, Andrés Escobar probably didn't think of much else than that cursed 35th minute in Pasadena. That moment in the furnace of Rose Bowl stadium, where on 22 June 1994, more than 93,000 people create a deafening backdrop in the second game of the World Cup group stages between Colombia and hosts USA. Here, where the heat makes every step torture.

Actually, everything looks quite harmless. US midfielder John Harkes of English club Derby County crosses from the left to the centre, towards the penalty area.

On the height of the penalty spot, the ball lands at the feet of Colombian defender Andrés Escobar. US striker Ernie Stewart, who later scored the goal to 2-0, is nowhere near enough to reach the ball.

To the dismay of goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba, Escobar deflects the ball into his own net with his left foot. While the Rose Bowl literally explodes in jubilation, Escobar seems paralyzed. He buries his face under his shirt with the back number 2. A fatal own goal.Ten days later, Andrés Escobar is dead. Gunned down. Executed – with twelve bullets. On 2 July 1994, Humberto Munoz Castro opens fire on the disgraced national player in front of the “El Indio” bar in Colombia's capital Medellin while shouting the word “gooool”.

Andrés Escobar dies on the spot. He wore the yellow jersey of the Cafeteros in 50 international matches (1 goal).

The Colombian Football Association will not award this jersey until 1997, the end of the period of mourning for Escobar.

The fact that he is the victim of a crime after his momentous own goal – the Colombian team, which had become a secret favourite for the title, loses 1:2 and gets knocked out in the group stages – is one of the most tragic episodes in the history of the World Cup.Who is the man that ends Andrés Escobar's life? Munoz Castro, who confesses shortly afterwards, is no stranger in the drug milieu of Medellin. As a bodyguard and driver, he worked for the powerful drug kingpins – in Medellin, which is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world at the beginning of the 1990s.

Escobar's own goal cost the drug bosses a lot of money, the rumours say shortly afterwards. After all, the qualification of Francisco Maturana's team was basically a foregone conclusion. “The defender had to pay for the gambling passion of some underworld bosses,” is a line from World Cup book “Der Fußball erobert die neue Welt (Football Conquers the New World, Weltbild, 2006)”.

Escobar's death shocks the football world. In view of the fact that some major players in the underworld bet on Colombia and then murdered a player from their national team, the sport loses its innocence on this summer's day in 1994.

120,000 people line the streets of Medellin at his funeral. It was here, at Atlético Nacional, that the professional career of Andrés Escobar, a son of a banker, began in 1985. After just one season with the Young Boys Bern in Switzerland (1989/90), Escobar returned to his hometown of Medellin, where he was once again signed by Atlético Nacional and played there until his assassination. The absolute highlight of his career was winning the Copa Libertadores with Atlético Nacional in 1989.The Medellin courts sentence Munoz Castro to 43 years in prison, but in 2005, just eleven years after the murder, he is already released. “Good conduct”, they say.

The murdered Escobar becomes a legend in Colombia – even four years after his death, he is omnipresent in the fan displays during games of the Cafeteros. At the 1998 World Cup in France, a portrait of Escobar adorns the spectator stands in Lyon.

ESPN, the TV station that had also broadcast Escobar's last international match on 22 June 1994, includes the murdered defensive player in a documentary about drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who had been killed in a shooting the year before.

The claim: The godfather, an enthusiastic football fan, would never have tolerated the murder of a professional who shared the same name, even though he was not related to him…
Winfried Schäfer's face is expressionless as he begins the train journey from Lyon to Paris. The German coach gazes into nothing. The fact that “Wild Winnie” led Cameroon's national team to the World Cup in Asia in 2002 after only one year as manager and helped them win the Africa Cup of Nations in Mali is merely a distant memory during these sad summer days.

The atmosphere in the immense Stade de France of Paris-St. Denis, the destination of the “Indomitable Lion”, is similarly gloomy on 29 June 2003. Many seats remain empty, only 51,000 fans gather in the 1998 World Cup Final stadium. The football world is in shock – and mourns the loss of a lion. Marc-Vivien Foé is dead.

The Cameroonian national player with 62 caps and eight goals in his national jersey, decorated with two African championships (2000, 2002) and two World Cup participations (1994, 2002), has died on the pitch. While playing the semi-final between the “Indomitable Lions” and Colombia (1-0), Foé collapses in the 73rd minute without any outside influence, suffers a cardiac arrest and dies of heart failure about an hour after doctors and medical staff had fought for his life on the pitch.

When he arrives at Lyon Medical Centre, he is pronounced dead on sight. “Despite a previous blood analysis in the clinic of St. Etienne, he didn't feel fit, but still wanted to play the game, and he didn't want to leave the pitch when Winfried Schäfer wanted to replace him”, former France professional Gernot Rohr tells Eurosport on the day of the final, “some players of the French team, who know Foé from Lens and Lyon, are still in shock”.It is a tragic irony that Foé dies in the city of Gérland in Lyon. It was here, in the cauldron of the “Lyonnais”, where the sturdy African became a hero and a football icon. While playing for Olympique Lyon, he won the Coupe de France in 2001 and the Ligue 1 championship in 2002.

It all started in 1994. Foé signed his first professional contract – and during his first spell in France in 1998, he managed to win a sensational championship with Racing Club Lens. In 85 league games for Lens, the 1.88 m giant scored eleven goals until 1999. “When he arrived in Lens, he was a tough, unpolished player from Africa,” his teammate at the time, Guillaume Warmuz, recalls in a TV interview in summer 2003, “but his goals and physical strength quickly made him the leading player – and I was able to see the fear in the eyes of his opponents. After a short stint at West Ham United (38 games, one goal), he returned to France in 2000 and quickly became a leading player at Olympique Lyon. During the 2002/2003 season, he joined Manchester City on loan, where he scored nine goals in 35 games.

Foé was considered a marathon man, a tireless fighter and a meticulous football worker on the pitch, an introvert, a model professional who didn't need many words, but whom everyone on the team listened to and literally hung on his lips when he addressed the team. His colleagues respectfully called him “Mister 100 Percent”. Foé's interviews were rare but impressive.

“We are here to win the tournament”, Foé had said at the start of the Confed Cup, “we want to win back the hearts of the people of Cameroon, because we have been disappointing them lately. This tournament must be a wake-up call that we're still here despite the poor performance at the 2002 World Cup. We don't want to disappoint anyone here, we're here to represent Africa.” In Asia 2002, Foé and the Lions of Cameroon had already been eliminated in the group stages after sharing a group with Germany and Ireland.What made Foé so special was his authentic and sincere nature. His words were simple but clear and always reached the hearts of the fans in West Africa.

In a 2001 interview, Foé said: “It is an honour for me to be able to wear the colours of Cameroon, football is my passion and I want to share it with everyone”. His philosophy: “You must always give your best, you simply cannot disappoint the fans. When you lose, the fans want to see that you've given everything – those are the qualities of the Indomitable Lions.” Geremi, his teammate in the national team: “He always motivated us a lot because he knew how to use the right words at the right time. He has given our fans and the public a lot of his time, now he has died on the pitch – Cameroon will never forget him”.

No. Cameroon will not forget the dead Lion. During the national anthems before the Confederations Cup final against France, the players of Cameroon stand arm in arm with their French opponents, carrying a large portrait of their deceased colleague on the pitch of St. Denis. World champion Robert Pires is aware of the immense importance of these moments:

“He left us on the pitch, so now we have to enjoy every second of life.” The fact that France wins 1:0 by Golden Goal is of little interest on this day. At the award ceremony, all Cameroon players – as well as coach Schäfer – wear Foé's jersey with the number 17 on their back. These are seconds that hurt. The fans in the ranks applaud with tears in their eyes, Cameroon's football legend Roger Milla struggles with his emotions in the gallery. French captain Marcel Desailly and Cameroon's captain Rigobert Song receive the trophy together. In honour of Foé, the shirt with the 17 has never again been awarded by the Cameroonian Football Association – just like the number 23 at his ex-club Manchester City.21 January 2011 is a dark day for Brad Friedel. The 39-year-old US keeper of Aston Villa is forced to declare bankruptcy before a court in Macclesfield, England.

Despite a weekly salary of almost 50,000 euros, the keeper with 82 caps for the US has accumulated more than five million euros of debt. Other sources even speak of eight million.

Brad Friedel surely had good intentions when he invested in the Premier Soccer Academies in his home state of Ohio in 2003. In the state capital Columbus, as well as in Cincinnati, they are building two football schools where youngsters aged 14 to 19 can train for free.

The system of football academies is still in its infancy, and Brad Friedel – on his way to the quarter-finals thanks to his top performances in the US boys' goal during the 2002 World Cup – is just the right person to create a new feeling of optimism.The expansion follows in 2005. Friedel acquires a huge, undeveloped property in Lorain near Cleveland for the equivalent of €677,000 – a true bargain.

The windy, barren site is the place where Friedel and his real estate partners plan to realize an idea of grandiose proportions: An elite school for US football with a total investment volume of nine million euros. The idea is for 24 football students to live permanently in Lorain.

Thousands of other young players are supposed to train there on a part-time basis to refinance the project. On an area of 11,000 square metres, the project’s plans include the construction of 20 individual apartments, conference rooms, multi-entertainment rooms, a cafeteria, its own laundry facility – everything the next big football star from the US might need.

The property at the renamed 2101 Brad Friedel Avenue of Stars is where the youth system of US football shall be reinvented….….Unfortunately, there are several factors that Friedel hasn't considered. For one, the costs now already amount to around eleven million euros. In addition, Friedel – now 36 – is still playing in England.

The day-to-day business of the academy, however, demands his presence on site. Friedel doesn't spend enough time in the States to supervise the administration himself. Then, in September 2008, the big recession hits.

The US housing bubble bursts, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers triggers the financial crisis and plunges thousands of companies worldwide into a downward spiral. In the space of just one year, RBS Citizens Bank is demanding the repayment of almost ten million euros. This is compounded by tax debts. Friedel and his people fail to convince their creditors of the project in the face of a stagnating economy.

The academy is closed in 2009, and two years later the attempt to sell the property for 7.1 million euros fails. This would have enabled Friedel to recover at least part of his investment. No such luck. When it is finally sold in 2013, Friedel is bankrupt, and with a sales price of 2.4 million euros, he doesn't even get a quarter of the costs back. “Friedel was not only ruined from a financial point of view”, comments football portal, “a fundamentally good idea was also destroyed as a result of poor execution. Ten million dollars, simply gone up in flames.”In the summer of 1983, Bum Kun Cha, the deeply religious Christian from South Korea, has finally had enough. The South Korean, who has scored 46 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt in 122 Bundesliga matches and who has led the “capricious diva” to a UEFA Cup title in 1980 and to victory in the 1981 DFB Cup, gives the club an ultimatum. He wants to be transferred to Bayer 04 Leverkusen – and for the SGE to cover his debts.  

Bum Kun Cha was tricked by his own club boss. Whether it was the general trust of professional footballers in great investments, or the poor German skills of the Asian striker, is a question no one can answer today.

What is certain is that, at the beginning of 1983, Cha receives a letter with the file number M1204/83 from the district court Seligenstadt. The letter states that his salary will be seized. In addition to the powerful Frankfurt yellow press, which gave him the name “Cha Boom” because of his qualities as a goal scorer, he is now also the subject of the courts’ interest.

At first, Cha is speechless. In addition to the seizure of his income from Eintracht Frankfurt in the amount of 18,000 euros, the court also demands the payment of 23,000 euros in interest. Because Cha hasn't paid anything up to this point, the loan of 100,000 euros that had been given to him by a bank in Lübeck for the real estate deal is due immediately.It is Eintracht vice president Wolfgang Zenker who convinces Cha of the real estate investment. When asked about the incident, he immediately plays it down: “Cha was simply careless. We fixed the whole thing for him straight away.”

He was probably forced to do so, because his business practices – in the Bundesliga of the 80s, yuppies and smart manager types had long taken over the leading roles in clubs from the patriarchs – had given Zenker a bad reputation.

His role among the managers and bosses in the Bundesliga business is unprecedented, is what magazine DER SPIEGEL writes about him in May 1983. Zenker himself plays the role of saint in front of the fans of Eintracht Frankfurt, which had been heavily indebted at the time: “I relieve the players, if they so desire and turn to me, of anything that could prevent them from concentrating entirely on football.

As head of the player contract division at Eintracht, he made sure that the players’ lavish salaries were cut down as early as 1982. When asked about his practices, Zenker played the innocent: “I'm not the only one”.Wolfgang Zenker – As sales director of “Südwestdeutsche Unternehmens- und Finanzierungsberatungsgesellschaft mbH” (Südfinanz), he has sold high-risk construction projects to around 80 professional footballers.

At the “usual commissions”, as Rolls Royce owner Zenker likes to emphasize. That is far from true, as Cha's no less infamous advisor Holger Klemme finds out when reviewing the contracts. Zenker's share is 40 percent of the total sales amount….When the striker moves from SV Darmstadt 98 to Eintracht in 1979, Zenker sells him two houses in Velbert. At a price of 450,000 euros – including a mortgage of 300,000 euros. All it takes is one clumsy sentence to convince the good-natured star: “Grabowski bought, Pezzey bought, is also good for Cha.” The thing is, it wasn't good for Cha. “This contract is immoral,” says Holger Klemme. “Bum Kun Cha was gutted like a Christmas goose.”

He wasn't the only one. Eintracht keeper Jürgen Pahl is also forced to accept a loss of more than 35,000 euros after having been sold on a real estate investment. “He told me I could only sign my player contract on the condition that I buy the property from him,” Pahl complains later in SPIEGEL. In the case of his client Cha, Holger Klemme has to admit: “His only option is to sell the houses at a considerable loss. He is virtually broke.”

In the end, Bum Kun Cha eventually forces his transfer to Leverkusen, wins the UEFA Cup again with the Bayer squad in 1988. Later he becomes a manager in his homeland and leads the South Korean national team to the 1998 World Cup. In the end, he got lucky things didn’t turn out worse for him.
No, this is not a nickname David James is proud of. “Calamity James”, is what the former English national goalkeeper with 53 caps is called in his home country.

Because he can't prevent England from once again going out in a penalty shoot-out against hosts Portugal at EURO 2004. Because of his blunder against Austria (2:2) in the World Cup qualifying match in Vienna in September 2004. And because of the fact that in August 2005, he concedes four goals against Denmark (1:4) in a single half.

However, the 2008 FA Cup winner's financial mistakes have far greater consequences. David James has played for many major clubs in England. From 1992 to 1999, he played 214 league matches for Liverpool FC, followed by contracts with Aston Villa, West Ham United and Manchester City.

A normal Premier League career, aside from the mockery that every English goalkeeper has to deal with. According to The Sun, he earned more than 40 million euros in 25 years as a professional footballer. That should be enough to cope with the jokes about “Calamity James”, right?Not quite. In May 2014, David James is forced to file for bankruptcy. In 2005, the divorce from his wife Tanya already cost him a whopping 3.5 million euros. Then, in 2008, the global financial crisis hits the owner of seven properties hard – in addition, James falls victim to his own wastefulness.

“When one of his cars had a scratch, he bought a new one, when the shoes he had just bought were worn out even a little bit, he bought a new pair.”

This is how his former teammate Stan Collymore remembers James. “It's quite shocking that a player who has earned more than 20 million experiences such a financial collapse,” the Daily Telegraph writes. It is indeed shocking, especially considering James has also earned a lot of money away from the pitch, for instance as a suit model for Armani and as a TV expert for BT Sports.

In a highly publicised auction in November 2014, James sells his trophies and more than 150 jerseys that he has collected over his career, including those of Petr Cech, Frank Lampard, Michael Owen and Edwin van der Sar. He also sells a valuable chopper motorcycle – as well as a chainsaw.With 86 caps to his name, Sansom has the second-most appearances achieved by an English defender after Ashley Cole. He participated in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups and was a personal witness of Diego Maradona's legendary “Hand of God” goal in the quarter-finals.

Kenny Sansom played in 637 league games for Arsenal, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers, Coventry City and FC Everton.

Sansom has earned a lot of money, has lived in a house valued at 1.5 million euros – but many of his investment have turned out bad.

In addition, he had a gambling and drinking problem. In his heyday, he drank up to seven bottles of Rosé per day. The divorce from his wife Elaine was a long time ago.In his 2008 autobiography To Cap It All: My Story – confessions of English footballers are also a hit during the digital age – he admits to having lost the battle against alcoholism.

“It's true, I was living on the streets for ten days,” says Sansom, who was transferred from Crystal Palace to Highbury in 1980 for a million pounds, “because I've got no money, I'm a drunk, I'm feeling not very well and I'm a gambler. It's not good living on the bench.”

His former manager George Graham and Arsenal idol Tony Adams, co-founder of an addiction clinic, are the ones who help Kenny get back on his feet.

Today, he has managed to stop his freefall. From time to time he can be seen as a football expert at ITV.There are many iconic phrases in Toni Schumacher's scandalous book Anpfiff (Kick-off) from 1987. One, however, stands above the rest: “Immel gambled like an addict”.

Not exactly subtle. And not exactly affectionate, this revelation about the 19-time German national goalkeeper, 1980 European Champion and two-time runner-up at the World Cup. However, during the 1980s, Schumacher and likely also his other teammates from the national team, already observed Eike Immel's seemingly unchecked addiction to card games and other forms of gambling with concern. And not without reason.

Eike Immel (56), whose most successful time in football was when he won the German Championship (1992) and reached the UEFA Cup Final (1989) with VfB Stuttgart, suffered an unbelievable downfall.

After EURO 1988 in his home country, where he was pushed out of the national team by Bodo Illgner, seven years younger than himself, Immel has to make room for Marc Ziegler, the VfB's youth keeper, in 1995. He flees to England, to play for Manchester City in the Premier League. Just one year later, it's all over: Immel has to end his active career after suffering a hip injury. Until 2005, he works as a goalkeeper coach for Besiktas and Fenerbahce Istanbul, as well as for Austria Vienna.In April 2008, Immel has to file for bankruptcy for the first time – high-risk real estate investments, expensive cars, gambling debts and a divorce have resulted in debts in the six-figure range.

His football schools, opened in the same year, are out of business. At this point in time – Immel barely escapes a conviction for fraud – the youngest German national goalkeeper of all time, who had celebrated his debut for the national team at the age of 19 in October of 1980, lives on just 1,200 euros a month.

The charge by a Dortmund court that Immel had acquired cocaine for his own use in 78 (!) cases in 2012 cannot be proven either. Eike Immel has already given his most embarrassing performance. In January 2008, he can be seen singing at the side of old folk singer Bata Illic on the German version of “I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!”.

The 70,000 euros that the former elite keeper collects for mastering disgusting challenges go straight to his insolvency administrator. In May 2015, Eike Immel makes another appearance in the tabloids. After his second insolvency, he has disappeared without a trace, having previously lived with friends for a time. He barely escapes a warrant for his arrest.

More in Mehrseitig