AJAX VERSUS BAYERN, CRUYFF VERSUS BECKENBAUER (1973)
Ajax’s Johan Cruyff was still riding high in 1973 when his club met Franz Beckenbauer and Bayern Munich in the European Cup quarter-final. Billed as the ultimate gladiators’ duel, the game ended in a rout with the Dutch putting four goals past the shell-shocked Germans in the first leg and winning 1-2 in the return leg. This victory helped Ajax on their way to their third consecutive European Cup final. Later that year Cruyff transferred to Barcelona where he won European Footballer of the Year. Bayern, however, would bounce back and they won three European Cups from 1974-76 with Beckenbauer being crowned European Footballer of the Year in 1976.
Two of Europe’s greatest players, Beckenbauer and Cruyff, meet as captains of two of the continent’s most famous clubs.
Stars such as Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller had played internationals at such a magnificent venue, but might have needed to pinch themselves in 1972 because this was now ‘home’. Their club Bayern Munich had taken over Munich’s 80,000-seat Olympiastadion with its lightweight, tensile roofs. Built for the 1972 Olympic Games, the stadium was associated with horror and bloodshed when 11 lsraeli athletes were murdered there during a terrorist attack. However, the Olympic Stadium move, doubling the capacity of the club’s former ground, was to be auspicious for Bayern as it heralded a period of unprecedented supremacy that culminated in three European Cup wins.
A view from an airship flying over the Olympiastadion.
On 6 June 1971 Kickers Offenbach president Horst Gregorio Canellas celebrated his 50th birthday with a party. Despite Kickers having been relegated the day before, Canellas was in buoyant mood, which made a number of his well-wishers feel a little uneasy. Their concerns would prove correct as with the press of the play button on a tape recorder he blew open The Bundesliga Scandal. The tape contained secret recordings revealing a litany of offers to be paid-off in return for assisting Kickers Offenbach with their league survival. The repercussions of Canellas’s expose would be far-reaching with two thirds of the league drawn into the corruption scandal.
The Bundesliga Scandal was far-reaching with all clubs either implicated or viewed with suspicion.
A car plunging into a ditch robbed England of the man rated the best goalkeeper they ever had. When Gordon Banks lost control of his car on 22 October 1972 he sustained no life-threatening injuries, but, in a distressing irony for a goalkeeper, he lost the sight in his right eye. It tragically brought down the curtain on an England career of 73 caps in which his country lost only nine matches with him between the sticks. Banks considered trying to resume his playing career, but went into scouting, non-league football management and celebrity speaking.
Banks later had a brief career in the NASL with the Cleveland Strikers, part of a sporting franchise that included an American football team.
West Germany’s ‘Der Bomber’ certainly wiped out the Soviet Union’s hopes of another European Nations title as he scored two goals in a 3-0 final tie win on 18 June 1972. In the European competition, prolific striker Gerd Muller was reprising the top-scoring role he had played for West Germany just two years earlier with his similar feat in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. The Bayern Munich player, who had scored 42 goals for his club during the previous league season, also provided much of the artillery for West Germany’s World Cup win two years later in 1974 – including the winning goal in the 2-1 final defeat of Holland. Muller’s heroics for his country coincided with a purple patch at club level, too, as he was Bayern Munich’s top scorer for three seasons from 1970-71 through to 1973-74, with more than 30 goals in each successive season. Unsurprisingly, this period also coincided with Bayern’s three-year domination of the European Cup competition.
In typical predatory fashion Gerd Muller stabs the opening goal past goalkeeper Yevgeny Rudakov.
Franz Beckenbauer embued the sweeper position in football with class and made this very specialised role glamorous. It brought him accolades as one of the finest defenders in soccer history and saw him lead his club Bayern Munich and his country West Germany to the pinnacles of success. Sweeping behind the defence, ‘Der Kaiser’ with his extraordinary football vision could read the game, adding extra security and improving the passing out of defence. Unusual in a defender of the 1970s, Beckenbauer was calm and confident with the ball at his feet, yet steely and accurate in his tackling.
Beckenbauer redefined the role of the sweeper and was a ball-playing defender of the highest order who could also perform in midfield.
On 24 May 1972 Glasgow Rangers reached the pinnacle of European football without one of their thousands of fans witnessing it. Rangers were presented with the European Cup Winners’ Cup in a back room of Barcelona’s Nou Camp Stadium while on the pitch drink-fuelled fans clashed with baton-wielding police. As Rangers raced to an early 3-0 lead over Moscow Dynamo their fans broke onto the pitch several times before Dynamo’s two-goal fightback led to a mass invasion. As the battle raged, Rangers were quietly handed the trophy followed by a two-year ban by UEFA for their fans’ appalling behaviour.
Rangers players hold somewhat subdued celebrations in their dressing room after their fans’ behaviour had incited crowd trouble.
It was unthinkable that a player who could win a place in any World XI should quit aged only 26, but George Best did. Disillusioned and feeling the effects of his fast living, Manchester United player Best flew to Spain after problems at Old Trafford and quit soccer at an impromptu press conference – just days short of his 26th birthday.
Newspapers quoted Best, who had played 466 times for United and scored 178 goals, as saying, «I am no longer a footballer – and that’s final.» History tells that his decision was not final. The Northern Ireland international returned to the club which nurtured his brilliance, but there were more problems over his pop star lifestyle. After quitting United again he wandered the world to play in countries as far apart as Scotland and Australia. He had lower league spells with Stockport, Fulham and Bournemouth in England, Hibernian in Scotland, and Los Angeles Aztecs and San Jose Earthquakes in California, before finally retiring in 1983.
On the pitch Best was a genius but off-the-pitch problems continually threatened to overshadow his undoubted talent.
Hailed as one of the most consistent and best forwards in the world in the 1950s and 1960s, Uwe Seeler spent his entire career at his home town club Hamburg SV, scoring over 550 goals in some 700 senior appearances. The stocky Seeler possessed a fierce shot that left goalkeepers floundering, a talent he put to good use in four World Cup campaigns, scoring in each to equal Pelé’s record. At home he was voted Germany’s Footballer of the Year three times. When he retired his reputation was underlined by the benefit match appearance of stars such as Geoff Hurst, George Best, Bobby Charlton, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller.
His burly physique was deceiving, for Uwe Seeler was a deadly finisher with a ferocious shot who delivered for both club and country.
Midfield maestro Gunther Netzer laid to rest England’s dominance over West Germany with a masterdass at Wembley. He engineered Germany’s first victory on English soil and a 3-1 win in this European Nations Cup quarter-final on 29 April. His midfield generalship was the significant factor and the inspired Netzer was always ready to explode from a strolling gait into a penetrating run for goal. After Hoeness put the Germans ahead and Lee equalized, Netzer got on the scoresheet with a penalty – and even that was exceptional. England keeper Banks pushed Netzer’s shot on to the post, but it spun back behind him into the net. Muller made it 3-1.
Gunter Netzer was in inspirational form, beating England goalkeeper Gordon Banks from the penalty spot to make the score 2-1.
The Leeds United contingent in the 34,275 crowd chanted «Ole!» as pass after accurate pass found its mark and Leeds’ opponents, Southampton, failed to get near the ball. This stunning 4 March demonstration of team arrogance was probably the only time that Leeds truly emulated Real Madrid on the pitch, even though the two clubs shared an all white strip. The Southampton players ran themselves ragged, not only through the longest 27-pass sequence, but also throughout the match. It was all to no avail, though, as Leeds delighted their home fans at Elland Road with a 7-0 trouncing.
Playing in all-white like Real Madrid, Leeds turned in a performance the Spaniards would have been proud of against Southampton.
A 40-yard rocket-shot stunned English football as the boot of forward Ronnie Radford propelled mighty Newcastle United out of the FA Cup at the hands of nonleague side Hereford United. In a giant-killing feat not achieved since Yeovil’s 2-1 win over Sunderland in 1949, Hereford qualified for the fifth round of the Cup with a 2-1 win courtesy of Radford’s high-velocity drive – just four minutes from time – after a determined run from the half-way line. Hereford had previously earned this 5 February home replay with a 2-2 draw against a Newcastle side packed with star players and internationals.
Hereford United players, including Ronnie Radford, top left, celebrate their giantkilling exploits with a drink or two in the dressing room.