Fritz Walter


Fritz Walter

Friedrich "Fritz" Walter (October 31, 1920 – June 17, 2002) was one of the most well-loved German football players. In his time with the Germany national football team, he won 61 caps and scored 33 goals.

As the son of a "Vereinswirt" (clubs innkeeper) of 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Walter began his football career early. At age 8, he joined the Kaiserslautern youth academy, and he made his first team debut at just 17, where he would faithfully remain throughout his career.

Walter debuted with the national team in 1940 under Sepp Herberger, and scored a hat-trick against Romania. Walter was drafted into the armed forces in 1942, however, the end of the war found 24 year old Fritz in a P.O.W. camp in Marmaros-Sziget in which he played with Hungarian and Slowakian guards. When the Soviets arrived they in general took all German P.O.W.'s back to a Gulag in Soviet Union where life expectancy was about five years. Fortunately, one of the Hungarian prison guards had seen Fritz playing for Germany told them that Fritz was not German but Austrian, and his life was spared. Upon his return, Walter, who by now suffered from Malaria, again played for Kaiserslautern, leading them to German championships in 1951 and 1953. Sepp Herberger recalled him to the national team in 1951, and he was named captain.

He was captain of the West German team that won their first World Cup in 1954. Ironically, that win came over Hungary. But in 1956, after the crack down by the Soviets of the Hungarian Uprising, the soccer team got caught away from home, and for two years, Fritz managed their games and provided the financial backing and in small measure, paid them back for having saved his life. Walter received his last cap during the semi-final against Sweden in the 1958 World Cup, suffering an injury which ended his international career, and retired from football in 1959.

International pro teams had repeatedly offered him hefty sums, but which support from his wife always declined in order to stay at home, to play for his home town, the national team and "Chef" (German for "boss") Herberger.

Fritz's younger brother Ottmar Walter, born 1924, played with him on the 1954 German team that won the World Cup. Ottmar is still alive, he still lives together with his wife in their house at Kaiserslautern itself. Fritz Walter died in 2002 aged 81. It was his dream to see the World Cup 2006 in "his" town Kaiserslautern as the town had not been selected in the smaller tournament of 1974, but it was denied with his death. But on the fourth year anniversary of his death on June 17, 2006, the United States played Italy in Kaiserslautern and a minute of silence was observed in his memory. Today people may visit the "Fritz Walter Haus" in the town of Enkenbach-Alsenborn approx. 20km east of Kaiserslautern (first exit from Kaiserslautern on Bundesautobahn 6 direction Mannheim).

Accolades

*Fritz Walter is one of five honorary captains of the German soccer squad. The other four are Uwe Seeler, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthäus and Bettina Wiegmann.
*The home stadium of 1. FC Kaiserslautern is named the Fritz Walter Stadion.
*In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's 50th anniversary, the German Football Association selected him as its Golden Player of the past 50 years (from 1954 to 2003). [http://www.uefa.com/uefa/news/Kind=256/newsId=130150.html]

Trivia

*In the eighties and nineties, there was another successful Bundesliga striker called "Fritz Walter", who mainly played for VfB Stuttgart. Although he had no relationship to the great Kaiserslautern captain, sports fans jokingly called him "Fritz Walter junior".
*Fritz Walter's wife of five decades was Italia Walter, a woman from Italy. This is remarkable, as it was then highly unusual in then-conservative Germany to pick foreign wives.
*It was popular knowledge in Germany that Walter appeared to play better the worse the weather was, and so now the term "Fritz Walter's weather" is used to describe rainy weather conditions, often rendered with odd local dialect grammar "of Fritz, his weather". This is due to the fact that he, as many other soldiers, had contracted malaria during the war, thus rendering him unable to stand the heat of the sun. The 1954 World Cup final was played in "Fritz Walter's weather" conditions.
*On October 6 1956, Walter scored a spectacular goal in Leipzig in front of 100,000 East Germans during a friendly against Wismut Aue, when he hit the ball back-heel while diving forward. [http://www.spiegel.de/sport/fussball/0,1518,440986,00.html]

External links

* [http://www.uefa.com/uefa/history/associationweeks/association=47/newsId=162417.html UEFA - Germany's Golden Player]
* [http://www.dfb.de/dfb-team/db/dfbnat.php?action=select&liga=Nationalmannschaft&lang=E&name=F.%3BWalter&gegner= DFB Statistics of Fritz Walter]

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