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Broken-neck football hero Bert Trautmann dies

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Photo: DPA
17:38 CEST+02:00
If anyone could unite arch-enemies on the football pitch, it was legendary goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, a German who played for Manchester City and helped win the 1956 FA Cup with a broken neck. He died on Friday aged 89.

"He was a wonderful sportsman and a real gentleman. He came as a soldier and therefore as a wartime foe to England and became a celebrated hero there. He was a legend during his own lifetime. His extraordinary career will remain in the history books forever," German Football Association (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach said on Friday morning.

Trautmann was captured as a German paratrooper in World War II, passed away Friday morning at his home, near Valencia, Spain, and had been voted the 1956 English player of the year following his Wembley heroics.

He wrote himself into English football folklore after being injured diving at the feet of Birmingham City striker Peter Murphy with 17 minutes left of the Wembley final. As no substitutes were allowed in that era, Trautmann played on despite considerable pain and made crucial saves in the game's dying stages to preserve City's 3-1 lead.

His neck was noticeably crooked when he collected his winner's medal and three days later an X-ray revealed he had dislocated five vertebrae, one of which was fractured in two, and the injury nearly cost him his life.

Trautmann later said the collision with Murphy had felt "like a plane crash".

"Bert was a true club legend in the best sense of the word," said Manchester City in a club statement.

"He was one of the greatest City goalkeepers of all time and a wonderful ambassador, not only for his country, but also for Manchester City.

"For anyone who knew him, Bert will be sorely missed, just as he will by the entire football world."

A decorated veteran of the Eastern Front in World War II, who was later captured having served in Normandy following D-Day, Trautmann was held as a prisoner-of-war in Lancashire until 1948 where he started playing football.

He went on to make 545 appearances for City, who he played for until 1964, and moved into management after his career, first with lower-division sides in England and Germany, and then managed national teams in Burma, Tanzania and Pakistan.

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Trautmann later received an OBE for promoting Anglo-German understanding through football in 2004, and in 2008 was similarly decorated by the DFB.

AFP/ The Local/hc

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