Sepp Maier on Wolfgang Overath: "A superb footballer although he could only play with his left foot!"
Despite hanging up his boots in 1979, Sepp Maier is still the most successful German goalkeeper of all time. Not only was he a World Cup Winner and European Championship winner with Die Mannschaft, he also secured four European titles, four Bundesliga titles, four DFB-Pokal titles and the Intercontinental Cup with FC Bayern Munich. The recipient of the Federal Cross of Merit in 1978 and Germany’s first ever goalkeeping coach, he has certainly lived life to the very fullest. To mark Maier’s 75th birthday, DFB.de spoke with the legend about his extraordinary life.
… life as a retiree: We’re always travelling, in fact I’ve just got back from Antarctica with my wife. We travelled by ship on the MS Bremen, and the journey lasted three weeks. You do get to travel a lot as a player, but what else do you get to see really other than airports, hotels and stadiums? We’re now planning our next holiday, which we hope to spend in New Zealand and Australia.
… his fame: Sure, people notice me when I go on cruises let’s say, but they’re somewhat older and so more reserved. You can sometimes sense that people respect you for what you’ve achieved, but they normally leave us in peace. That suits me. I do get around 600 autograph requests every month, though. One wants me in a Germany shirt, the other in a Bayern one. Most people just send a photo for me to sign which makes things easier!
… his interest in football today: I have two honorary tickets for FC Bayern games, but I mostly give those to other people and happily watch from the comfort of my sofa instead. That, or I go to play golf when the weather’s nice. I’m not a Bayern fan and I never was, I was an employee at the club for almost 50 years. I have a different kind of relationship with the club. I wish them well nonetheless. I’m always invited to come to Germany internationals. If the game is played close to home then I will go and watch, but I don’t travel all the way to Cologne or somewhere like that anymore.
… lasting friendships from his time as a player: We had a brilliant time together, but life really begins after football. Times change a bit. You develop other interests which you didn’t have the chance to as a player. For me that was tennis and then golf – the balls got smaller and smaller. Every now and then we get together for golf and we have a great time. It wasn’t easy to get a hold of Uli Hoeneß and Franz Beckenbauer during their difficult time. Franz was quite protective of his wife. But If you were to see us now, it’s like the good old days. It’s a shame about Gerd Müller, who is going through a tough battle at the moment (Müller is suffering from Alzheimer’s). My closest friend from my playing days is “Bulle” Roth, who can thank me for his nickname. We play golf regularly.
… the difference between football now and then: We had the best of it. I wouldn’t be able to get away with my antics nowadays. The press didn’t play such a big role back then, there weren’t phones, we had more freedom back then. Salaries and transfer fees are ridiculous today as well, no one person is worth 200 million Euros. It’s a bubble that I think will soon burst. The players would obviously be stupid to not take the money, though. I would play again right now because of the money. If someone were to offer me a one-year-contract I’d sign it straight away and just sit on the bench...
… his biggest achievement: That would definitely be winning the World Cup in 1974 and being able to lift the trophy in Munich. That was my biggest highlight, but winning four European trophies with Bayern comes a close second.
… the lowest point of his life: That would be the car accident I had in 1979, which ended my career. I wanted to play until the 1982 World Cup and reached the 100 cap landmark. But ultimately I have to be happy with the fact that I’m still able to tell the tale. I have Uli Hoeneß to thank for that especially, as he was the one who got be to the hospital in Munich. He was a godsend.
… his best game: I have two: My best games were definitely at the 1974 World Cup against Poland (1-0 victory that sent Germany to the final) and against Holland (2-1 win in the final). I have to say that in the terrible conditions against Poland and in the Final in my home stadium in Munich – with all humility - I played brilliantly. I also played my fair few good games in the Bundesliga, but the thing about league games is that you forget about them the next week then another game rolls around. But when you make the World Cup final with your country and then win it, that is something special.
… his worst game: The European Cup quarter final against Ajax in Amsterdam. I messed about too much with my gloves during the game. We only had gloves made of wool back in those days. But I had created my own special versions due to the smooth ball and wet footing – with pimples like on table tennis rackets – and I was certain that they would save everything. Well, we lost 4-0, and I threw all my gear into the canal. My boots, gloves and shirt are still swimming around somewhere in the North Sea. It clearly was a good ideathough, as they all play with goalkeeper gloves now. I was a pioneer. It unfortunately wasn’t possible for me to copyright them.
… the game that he would like to play again: If I was able to play a game again, then it would be the one in Cordoba – obviously with a different result at the end of it...
… his experience of playing at the World Cup: At the 1966 World Cup I was a spring chicken. It was already a huge honour to just be a part of that team. I was responsible for keeping spirits high and the not very PG film selection. The 1970 World Cup was my best as a player, but in general, 1990 was the best. The pressure you were under as a player wasn’t there. I had my job as the goalkeeping coach, but I didn’t have the pressure of playing in my own country like there was in 1974 or being defending champions like we were in Argentina in 1978. I felt like a World Cup winner in Italy as well.
… being a part of the team of the century: The fact that the European Championship team of 1972 was selected as the best is somewhat surprising to me. When you see how quickly the game is played nowadays... I watched our win at Wembley again recently (3-1 in the first leg of the quarter-final). The speed wasn’t the same, and most goals were from very close range. At that time the result was particularly special, however, as it was our first win in England. We could say back then that we were the best team in Europe. But the best national team of all time. Comparisons between eras are always hard to make.
... the best player he played with: My best teammates were Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller. Best player I ever played against was Pelé.
… his role models: The Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin and England’s Gordon Banks.
… the best successor to him in goal for Germany: I would say one of Toni Schumacher, Oliver Kahn and Manuel Neuer. Andy Köpke was also a great player.
... the danger of Manuel Neuer winning more international caps than him: Well, finally someone is going to do it. The others should be ashamed that I was allowed to be the most capped German goalkeeper for 40 years. We played in far fewer internationals back then.
...his Bundesliga record of playing 442 straight games: I have my ambition to thank for my record streak of playing over 13 years without missing a single game. I didn't fret when some part of me started to hurt - I had a cortisone shot and took to the pitch feeling brilliant. I never broke or tore anything, which would have meant I couldn't play. There are a lot of injuries today which we had never heard of at the time - all the ligaments with their funny names.
...his strictest coach: Branko Zebec. He was stubborn but fair. At Bayern, when we were forced to end our training session after 10 minutes due to a frozen pitch, he believed that meant we had to do extra to make up for the missed session. I had just returned from an international match in Sofia. We had a hotel near a casino, where he put two bars out in the carpark and made me do diving practice. No-one in the casino was playing at the tables - everyone was watching the two nutters in the parking lot...
…the power of positive thinking: the secret to my success had a lot to do with the power of imagination. As a ten-year-old child, I always imagined how amazing it would be to play in 1860 Munich’s stadium. This then became reality. I then started to imagine about playing in Rome or Madrid, and worked hard to achieve these goals. These became true too. Winning the lottery is the only feeling you can compare with that.
…his retirement from his role as goalkeeping coach for Germany in 2004: The whole thing with Jürgen Klinsmann is history and it has been cleared up. Looking back, I’m glad things turned out the way they did. I had to stop at some point. I wasn’t a fan of the way I was told about my departure as goalkeeping coach.
...his birthday wish: We're in Südtirol - it's 23 degrees and perfect for playing golf. For my 75th, I wish for one hole-in-one and three eagles.###more###