Posted: 7/4/2006
Title: AN AFTERNOON WITH A LEGEND

Blog:                                                                                                                         

    He stands maybe 5 feet tall, and weighs less than 100 lbs, and is slower than he used too be-but still speeds about the Bayern countryside in his 15 year old 'Beemer' ,a sporty BMW, but at 81 years young, DETTMAR CRAMER is a giant among coaches and among men. I am lucky to have my coaching license signed by him personally. We had been trying to link up for a month and I got many calls, but we were always a game and a stadium apart. Last week he finally drove the 1 hour to meet at Gasthof Hoehensteiger, a favorite of his.

    At 16 years old in 1942 , playing in his native Dortmund, Sepp Herberger the coach came to see him play and put him on the German youth team. There was nobody to play-Germany had been suspended from FIFA in 1940- but the Herbergers, who had no children, from that day forth  treated young Dettmar as the son they wish they had, sending hard to get chocolates and luxuries to him when he was soon drafted to the military. By 18 he was parachuting into 'enemy' territory and finally was prisoner of war after landing in Crete, the Greek Mediterranean island. The rest of his family was not so lucky. His younger brother was killed in action in Berlin on the last day of the war, and his father had both his legs blown off.

    All first born sons since 1641 have been called Dettmar, as is his own son, now a mathematics teacher in Munich. Sepp became a legend of course in 1954 at the 'Miracle in Berne' when coaching West Germany, still a young democracy, who came of age as a nation after winning 3-2 over Hungary in the WC Final at a rainy Wankdorf Stadium after being demolished 8-3 in a first round group encounter by the same opponent. He lives half an hour away from Beckenbaeur's farm house just over the border in Austria and they often get together. He is amazed at the great World Cup weather, because in the last day of May he was scrapping snow off his roof and hiding from baseball sized hail. I first met him 1n 1968 when he took an unknown Japan team to the bronze medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and I was in the stands. His star striker Yamamoto later played for the FIFA World XI and will be the next President of the Japan FA. He was FIFA coach for a number of years, touring the globe, and spending about 12 weeks in USA each summer, with no days off, going from one 7 day coaching course to another.

   Back in 1966 he was assistant coach of West Germany and I watched them demolish Switzerland 5-0 in Sheffield at Hillsborough, with his prodigy Beckenbauer, playing his first WC Game, scoring twice. He coached in South Korea for 5-6 years and a similar time for FIFA in China. I sat with him in the press box in Frankfurt in WC 1974 and we discussed US Soccer. Afterwards he came to coach the USA National team, but didn't like the politics. I organized a fan group at Texas Stadium a few months later when they played Mexico-we named them 'Dettmar's Disciples',  in the soon to be forgotten RIO GRANDE PLATE. The other match was in Monterrey. Mexico kept the plate and the series has never been revived. It should be-even if only to get the gold , silver and bejewelled trophy back!!-paid for by Lamar Hunt.

  We talked about many things, including the German shoot-out victory in the QF. How the Swiss goalie coaching assistant passed on bits of paper to Lehmann to tell him his opponents weakness. This was shown on TV but Cramer thinks they were probably blank-but a great pyschological ploy. While in Israel with the USA Olympic squad, including Neil Cohen and Freddy Garcia, Dettmar received daily 'pleadings' on the phone from Beckenbauer at FC Bayern Munich. They were 14th in the Bundesliga. He considers Dettmar his father figure-still does. US Soccer had never got Dettmar to sign a proper contract, and he left for Munchen. They won the Bundelidga, the German Cup, the European Cup-the forerunner to the Champions League, and the World Club trophy. Later I sent Neil Cohen(then with the Dallas Tornado) and Charlie DeLong to train with FC Bayern. 

   I remember the ill tempered affair with Leeds United at the  European Final in Paris, in 1975, since I am a Leed United supporter and the then Leeds Coach and former England captain  Jim Armfield was a school mate of mine. Leeds were banned for fan behaviour from Europe for a couple of years, although the referees decisions were very odd. The Leeds fans were notorious. The French police sent a German Shephard into the stands to contain them. They strangled it and threw the body over the fence and onto the pitch-they were not a nice bunch!! He is still very busy writing reports for FIFA and UEFA and doing daily TV reports for Japanese TV. Tomorrow, Wednesday we get to spend more time together when we go to the FRANCE-PORTUGAL Semi Final at Allianz Stadion in Munchen. He sends his best wishes to his many US friends and students.

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