Breitner - breathing fire on forwards

Breitner was a paradox but on the field, he was as clear-headed as any of his redoubtable colleagues including Gerd Muller and Beckenbauer.

Paul Breitner with the trophy after West Germany beat Holland 2-1 in the 1974 World Cup final.   -  The Hindu Archives

What will you have in your team - beasts of burden or birds of paradise? Who is more valuable. Those who ably and willingly carry the load, absorb all the pressures or those who bide their opportunity and when it comes, spring to action and with bravura and artistic flourishes deliver the goods? It is undeniable that these hewers have their place in any national line-up and without them, no side can have a firm footing, which again raises the oft-debated question, if it is force or craft,  which eventually tilts the scales. Yes. Football has need of these workmen to defend the fort, stolid, stoic and sensible. For without them, an attack cannot be built up and sustained. To this breed of hardy men, tough in physique and temperament and technically solid, belonged Paul Breitner.

Read: Gerd Muller - 'bomber' of Germany

West Germany's ace full-back who had held the stage in the second half of the '70's. He was in that Cup-winning side of 1974 and played no mean part in the home triumph. The preliminary rounds of the Munich World Cup ran into rough weather, with Russia refusing to play the return match against Chile at Santiago, saying that they mourned the death of several left-wing prisoners who had been shot, as a result of the political turmoil in that Latin country.


So it was Chile that got a walk-over and found itself in Berlin facing the home team in the next round. There too the political shadow extended with Chilean left-wingers demonstrating on terraces. It was a torrid contest with the home team having to bend every sinew to get past the battling Latins. And the Germans had to thank their long-legged, wooly haired full-back who won the day for them with a tremendous long-shot. Breitner was cheered all the way for that effort against a clever, compact team. A rich Bavarian, with clear Maoist leanings, Paul Breitner was a paradox but on the field, he was as clear-headed as any of his redoubtable colleagues including Gerd Muller, the shooter par excellence, and the versatile Beckenbauer. And in that hour of triumph for the home team, Breitner's contribution had been truly significant.


He scored the equaliser after Holland had taken an early lead through a penalty which was to stand his team in good stead in those ticklish moments, when Holland threatened to equalise again after the host scored a second goal. It was a well-taken penalty after a well-earned award. But for this foul on him, which got the award, he was dead set to score, after a clever forward movement. Taking a pass from Overath, Holzenbein, a comparative newcomer, dashed down the line. Breitner, who was keeping pace with him inside, scorned the easy option, cut into the box, beat his man and when about to shoot was tripped by Jansen.

Honest Paul:

Breitner himself scored from the penalty and it was a self-imposed responsibility. Even amidst the brief speculation as to who would be asked to take the kick, honest Paul simply walked up, grabbed the ball and kicked it into the goal. For once, he gave the lie to the adage, 'Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread'... it was a case of the 'Brave rushing in, where angels fear to tread.'

Gallery of Greats: Sportstar series on World Cup heroes

After everything was over, with the glittering cup in Germany's laps, Breitner was to remark ingenuously. "If some thing had gone wrong, I would have had to take the consequences". Indeed he would have taken the consequences, for he had to deal with such situations often enough in his career. Paul Breitner has been described as a rebel without a cause. He has protested against soccer officialdom establishment and even conventions and is imbued with a high degree of individualism.

He has been honest enough to admit that professional football has all the trappings, good and bad, of any other business where making money was the sole criterion. He played football to earn money and not to serve as a model for folks back home.

This former Bayern Munich star, with his multi-sided personality built up a public image through his utterances and TV appearances. He has always had his say, whether people around him, including his friends, football officials etc, liked it or not. He was a 'chartered libertine', but on the field, he showed exemplary discipline, firmly rooted to the earth, but at times, showing the touches of the 'birds of paradise', which had proved beneficial to his side.

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