18. AUGUST 2021 ETERNAL GOALS - ON THE DEATH OF GERD MÜLLER
Gerd Müller is being laid to rest.
As they would say in his hometown of Nördlingen, this will be 'a grosse Leich' (a significant loss, with many mourning his passing.)
With the passing of Gerd Müller, we lost a man who gave back to the people beyond measure.
When F.C. Bayern München made it public that the great Gerd Müller had passed, friends who knew about the seriousness of his Alzheimer's said that he finally put it all behind him. His wife, Uschi, had been visiting and caring for her husband every day in a nursing facility since December 2014. She did not miss a day until the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic forced a strict no-visitors policy for three months. She hoped that he wouldn't be able to think about his fate, about this awful illness that robs a person of their last dignity. In the good days, I had this feeling that he would gently pass away in his sleep."
Let's take a stroll down memory lane in honor of Gerd, back to better days. Picture a bright summer day in the 1960s. Two men stroll toward the center circle of a soccer pitch just before the start of a friendly match. They are engrossed in conversation, oblivious to their surroundings, but the hundreds of people around them are watching the mismatched pair closely.
One of the men is "the Boss," a man in his mid-sixties in a dark suit with a pocket square and elegantly worn street shoes. The other man is barely any taller, sporting neatly parted dark hair, wearing a casual outfit and sports shoes with three stripes. He looks like a docile student next to the boss.
These two men are crucial for soccer. The Bundesliga hasn't been around for long, and the old-timers in the clubs must come to terms with this vision of soccer that has become the new reality. Everyone is adapting to this change from the old soccer to the new professional soccer.
Yes, soccer has evolved. The stadiums are always packed, and the magazines "kicker" and the Monday sports section of the magazine "Bild" have become a must-read. Sometimes, a soccer player even makes it onto the teen magazine "Bravo" cover. Even on television, there's now Saturday coverage on the "Sportschau," which highlights athletes, sporting events, and all news relating to sports. The nation has come to expect world champions from the new German national coach, Schön.
It is during this time of elevated soccer excitement and growth that we see the two men walk across the pitch on that summer's day. In the suit pointing forward with his index finger, Adi Dassler has already celebrated a World Cup title as the "nation's cobbler" in 1954. The young man, Gerd Müller, who doesn't miss a word Mr. Dassler says, has a great sports future ahead of him.
He will become world champion in 1974 when he scores the winning goal in the final of the 1974 World Cup in Munich, which the Germans won 2-1 against the Netherlands.
Soon it will be said that there was and would be no better center forward than Gerd Müller on the globe. Here is an excerpt from his professional biography:
World Cup winner 1976. European Cup winner 1974, 1975, 1976. German champion 1969, 1972, 1973, 1974 .German Cup winner 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971. European top scorer 1970, 1972. Bundesliga top scorer 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1978. Europe's "Footballer of the Year" 1970. Germany's "Footballer of the Year" 1967, 1969. 427 Bundesliga games / 365 goals. 74 European Cup games / 66 goals. World champion 1974. European champion 1972. 62 international matches / 68 goals.
Now 75 years old, Franz Beckenbauer put it simply: "Everything F.C. Bayern has become is thanks to Gerd Müller. Without Gerd's goals, we'd still be sitting in the board shack on Säbener Strasse today." And Paul Breitner says: "Gerd Müller is the most important and greatest footballer Germany has had after 1954. F.C. Bayern and the national team are what they are today because of Gerd Müller. And so am I."
There is something symbolic about the photo on the pitch. Adi Dassler, the man who has experienced so much and knows so much about life, points forward and says,
"Gerd, that's the way."
Gerd, with his unique talent, listens carefully.
And he will work to improve his skill, in a similar way as the man next to him always does. These two men share a commonality; Adi Dassler, the shoe visionary, and Gerd Müller, the one with the gift to score goals. They are constantly striving to improve themselves, always on the pitch, always competing to become better!
There's no time for talking when things work out because self-praise stinks.
They carry a credo within them; Know your ability, and don't let yourself get sidetracked when things don't go quite so smoothly. Müller, the "nation's bomber," had a few agonizingly long lapses in shooting, but he never gave up.
Gerd Müller was a regular visitor to Herzogenaurach. Sometimes he came with the "Bayern" from Munich, and sometimes the national players met at adidas. But his visits were plentiful; what held him in such fondness of coming for visits?
Was it adidas?
Was it Adi Dassler, the boss?
Was it Vroni Bretting's magnificent cooking?
Or was it Käthe Dassler?
It was everything; he felt like a part of the family.
Another picture of Adi Dassler and Gerd Müller beautifully portrays the different types of athletes with whom Adi had to find common ground.
It's mid-1960s at the training camp of the national team. In the background, Uli Hoeneß and national coach Schön are also on the pitch. In front, Adi Dassler and Gerd Müller are studying a newspaper. It's a serious conversation between Adi and the soccer star who has devoted his life and body to the sport and knows the risk of injury every time he steps onto the pitch. Two men are fervent and concerned about their hand (and foot) work.
From the far right, a blond man glimpses into the paper. He comes from Augsburg and is also a gifted soccer player; he plays for the national team. His name is Helmut Haller, and he is well-known for his mischievous and cunning behavior. He grabbed the match ball from the World Cup final after losing the final to England at Wembley Stadium and made some shady business deal with it.
Helmut Haller was lured across the Alps to Bologna and Turin with million lire deals and didn't make a single Bundesliga game. A real tough professional, he did no dribbling without dollars.
This way of thinking was unimaginable for Adi Dassler, for whom honesty, true sportsmanship, and shoes were everything; he was a hard worker dedicated to his passion.
Gerd Müller was just like Adi in his convictions. He knew what he was capable of, and he knew his limits. Off the pitch, Gerd's good-naturedness had often been taken advantage of by others. But he liked to keep it simple and focus on the beauty of the sport; if there was a ball nearby, Gerd had to kick it. Dollars? That didn't matter to him.
He was content discussing a technical article with Adi. That was one of the many highlights of Gerd Müller's life.
Gerd regularly dropped in on the boss and examined the latest models. He always loved the shipments he received from Adi.
Even after adding a few more years of U.S. soccer to his world career, it stayed that way. Wherever he played in the world, his shoes had to come from Adi Dassler.