Death of a Bundesliga pioneer
It was on 24 August 1963 that Borussia Dortmund forward Friedhelm “Timo” Konietzka wrote himself into the footballing history books by scoring the first ever goal in Germany’s Bundesliga, less than a minute into his side’s game with Werder Bremen.
Sadly for Konietzka, however, one of the crowning moments of his career was never recorded for posterity on film, as the nine-time Germany international explained a few years ago: “You didn’t have cameras in all the stadiums back then, and as we were at Bremen all the photographers had positioned themselves behind our goal.”
The 73-year-old former league champion passed away at his home in Brunnen, Switzerland, yesterday following a lengthy battle with incurable cancer of the gallbladder.
Second only to Der Bomber
Though German football fans will long remember that historic strike against Werder, Konietzka achieved much else during his eventful career.
Born in Lunen, he made his debut with hometown club VfB 08. He was a prolific goalscorer, and by 1967 he had hit 72 goals in 100 Bundesliga games for Borussia Dortmund and Munich 1860, a strike rate second only to the great Gerd Muller.
Hanging up his boots in 1971 with Swiss club Winterthur, Konietzka then tried his hand at coaching, occupying posts with Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Uerdingen and Grasshoppers Zurich.
A debt to the game
As a coach, he won three Swiss titles with FC Zurich between 1974 and 1976, and steered the club to the European Cup semi-finals in 1977. He then retired from the game to open a hotel with his wife in Brunnen.
“Thanks to football, I was able to leave the mine where I was working and play for the club of my dreams, Borussia Dortmund,” he once said. “I’ve also been able to travel around the world without spending a single penny.”
Indebted to the game he may have been, but Konietzka will always be remembered by the football world as one of its great pioneers.