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07th Oct 2015

A potty history of German goalkeepers in seven loopy episodes

Never a dull moment

Mikey Stafford

They say you don’t have to be mad to be a goalkeeper, but it helps.

That old cliche has never really rung true when it came to Republic of Ireland netminders. Packie Bonner was the archetypal safe pair of hands, on and off the field; Shay Given’s career longevity speaks volumes for his professionalism and sanity; Keiren Westwood was close to becoming a policeman.

Through history, however, Die Mannschaft custodians have turned another cliché – the one about Germans being dull – on its head by, quite often, being absolutely batshit mental.

Not all of them, of course. 1990 World Cup winner Bodo Illgner was always the picture of sanity – he repelled “Psycho” Stuart Pearce in a semi-final shootout after all.

But still, the German team has been blessed with a good supply of “characters” down through the years.

Manuel Neuer

The current incumbent is surely considered the greatest goalkeeper in the world and that is despite, or because of, his propensity to play outside his penalty area whenever possible. The Bayern man is a technically fine goalkeeper, but he regularly gets himself in scrapes with his roaming ways.

Oliver Kahn

Mehmet Scholl once said: “I fear only war and Oliver Kahn.” You could see the former Bayern man’s point.

18 Mar 1998: Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn of Bayern Munich shouts some orders during the match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in the European Champions League Quarter-Finals played at the Westfalenstadion, Dortmund, Germany. Borussia Dortmund won1-0. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport

With his constant barracking and abusing of his defenders, Kahn always gave the impression he was filled with a molten ball of rage. He appeared to make the transition from mad to “mad” when he rejected criticism of a late night trip a club by declaring, “I am not the pope”.


Sepp Maier

The “Cat from Anzig” was famed for his agility, his extra-long shorts, his extra-big gloves and his clownish on-field behaviour, which included once trying to catch a duck that had strayed on to the pitch

Jens Lehmann

Kahn’s arch-nemesis is proof that sometimes opposites do repel. Like his great rival for the Germany No1 jersey, Lehmann was apparently always filled with a molten rage. The former Arsenal man stamped on opponents, got involved in spats with opposing players and regularly got sent off. The switch into punditry hasn’t mellowed him particularly, he recently advised gay players – or “the afflicted” as he called them – against coming out.

He also once pissed behind the advertising hoardings during a Stuttgart game.

Harald Schumacher

It says something when you beat Adolf Hitler into second place in a poll of the most-hated person in France, but that was the strength of feeling towards the Cologne goalkeeper when he left French substitute Patrick Battiston in a coma after a horrendous tackle during the 1982 World Cup semi-final. He wasn’t universally liked in his home country either after making accusations of drug-abuse among German players  in his autobiography.

Rudi Kargus

Not a sign of madness but rather a refreshing streak of independent thinking, Maier’s deputy in the 1970s hung up his gloves in 1990 and picked up a paint brush.


Tim Wiese

From one canvas to another. Former Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim goalkeeper Wiese has been busy trying to break into the world of professional wrestling since his retirement from football in January of last year. Here he is enjoying some japes at a WWE event in Frankfurt.

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