Fritz Walter: The legend lives on

30 Oct 2020
  • Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Fritz Walter

  • Walter captained the "Miracle of Berne" team in 1954

  • "The strength that he gave to football can still be felt today"

"He was a special person: he had a big heart but was humble to go with it and always ready to help out. If someone asked him to do something and he thought that it was important, he lent a hand. And of course he was a good footballer, a world-class player in our era, I can assure you of that. When he had something to say to us, he found inspiring words and was very convincing. What he said carried weight. He didn’t shout – he just explained everything clearly so that everyone understood."

Those are the words of Horst Eckel, speaking about his former team-mate Fritz Walter, who would have been 100 years old today. Together they were part of the famous 1954 FIFA World Cup™-winning team that gave Germany its first title. Franz Beckenbauer, who went on to win the World Cup twice himself (in 1974 as a player and 1990 as a coach), previously described Walter as "without a doubt the most important German footballer of the century".

When you think of Walter, you think of Kaiserslautern, the Germany national team and the Final of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. The attacking midfielder spent the entirety of his storied career with the Rhineland team, while for his country, he was the first to receive the UEFA Golden Player award ahead of the likes of Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Lothar Matthaus.

In the Final of the 1954 World Cup, he led the German team to the "Miracle of Berne", one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament – a 3-2 win over a seemingly unbeatable Hungary side that had thrashed the Mannschaft 8-3 in the group stage.

Some 60 million Germans were sitting by their radios when the final whistle was blown and heard the words of a highly emotional Herbert Zimmermann shouting into the microphone: "It’s over! It’s over! The game is over! Germany are world champions, defeating Hungary three goals to two in the Final in Berne". It was an absolute sensation.

Fritz Walter in figures

  • Born: 31 October 1920

  • Died: 17 June 2002

  • 61 international appearances (33 goals)

  • First player to be added to Germany’s hall of fame

  • FIFA World Cup winner 1954

  • German league winner 1951 and 1953

  • FIFA Order of Merit holder

  • Played for Kaiserslautern for 30 years (384 matches, 327 goals)

The man from Kaiserslautern is still revered today throughout the country, and on his 65th birthday in 1985, the club changed the name of their ground from the Arena auf dem Betzenberg to the Fritz-Walter-Stadion. The Red Devils, who have since slipped down into the third division, have a very particular way of honouring their club legend, with a creative work of art mown into the pitch featuring a silhouette of Walter in action.

A few weeks ago, Walter was given another honour when he became the third footballer after World Cup-winning coaches Sepp Herberger and Helmut Schon to be depicted on a German stamp. "We all know Fritz Walter as a great footballer, but even after he had hung up his boots, he remained very committed to the game, particularly at youth level," said German federal finance minister Olaf Scholz at the ceremonial unveiling of the stamp, in the presence of the one surviving member of the 1954 team, Horst Eckel.

Briefmarke Fritz Walter 1920-2020 Fussball Weltmeister 1954 zum 100jährigen Geburtstag Deutsche Post 95 ct. *** Stamp Fritz Walter 1920 2020 Soccer World Champion 1954 for the 100th anniversary Deutsche Post 95 ct

Fritz Walter carried the hopes of an entire nation on his shoulders. His performances as captain of the 1954 World Cup-winning team made him into a historical figure. He could always see the big picture and he remained humble throughout his entire li...

DFB President Fritz Keller

I always wanted to be like him as a footballer. Now that my career is over, I can say: 'I've always played for the team - like Fritz Walter.'

Record World Cup goalscorer Miroslav Klose, who also began his career at Kaiserslautern
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A number of brothers have scored during World Cup final phases, with Fritz and Ottmar Walter being the first. After them came Rene and Willy van de Kerkhof, Socrates and Rai, and Michael and Brian Laudrup. The Walters are one of only two sets of brothers to win the World Cup, the others being Jack and Bobby Charlton.