West Germany great Horst Eckel passes away

Horst Eckel, the last surviving member of the West Germany side that won the 1954 FIFA World Cup Switzerland™, has passed away at the age of 89. The German Football Association (DFB) announced the sad news. A highly versatile player, Eckel was an integral part of the West German side that upset the highly-favoured Hungarians in the 1954 Final that became known as ‘The Miracle of Bern’.

“It is with a heavy heart that we learn of the passing of Horst Eckel, an extraordinary man who was the last surviving member of Germany’s 1954 World Cup winning side,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “Eckel’s team stood as a beacon of hope for West Germany, as a young nation. “Winning ‘The Miracle of Bern’ against such a brilliant Hungary side made the German people proud and contributed to the nation’s resurgence. We remember Eckel’s contribution to German football and our condolences go to his family and friends, to 1. FC Kaiserslautern and the whole German football family.” His team-mate Hans Schafer died in 2017, leaving Eckel as the last surviving member of the team that won West Germany’s first World Cup and laid the foundation for the decades of consistency and excellence from Die Mannschaft since. Even more importantly, lifting the Jules Rimet trophy gave West Germany a sense of identity. "All over the world we were not recognised politically, economically, and athletically," Eckel told football magazine 11 Freunde in 2011. "After this victory we were suddenly someone again.” Eckel played 32 internationals, the pinnacle of which was the 3-2 win over Hungary’s golden generation in the 1954 decider. Coach Sepp Herberger built his team around a nucleus of players from 1 FC. Kaiserslautern, including Eckel, but with all the West German players being semi-professional they weren’t given much of a chance coming into the tournament.

The performance in the Final has gone down in German football folklore as a uniting moment for a new nation still reeling from World War Two, lost and in real need of inspiration. “We didn’t even know what the title would mean for us,” Eckel told FIFA in 2010. “Nobody really knew about us, and we didn’t know what was going on back home in West Germany either. We only realised when we got back. "Then it hit us that we had played a little part in helping to rebuild West Germany. It made us proud that we had been able to do our bit."

Eckel achieved great success at club level too, making his debut for Kaiserslautern in 1950 and going on to win two German league titles. After his playing days were over, Eckel retrained and was a teacher until his retirement 1997. The legacy of Eckel and the rest of the victorious 1954 team lives on in the history of German football since, as Die Mannschaft united a nation that has now won four World Cups and three UEFA EUROs.