Legendary German goalkeeper and World War II veteran Bert Trautmann, who celebrated his 85th birthday on Wednesday, will be the German Football Federation’s (DFB) guest of honour at next month’s friendly against England in Berlin.
The ex-Manchester City goalkeeper, who famously helped the club win the 1956 FA Cup final despite suffering a broken neck, will receive a special DFB honor before the game.
“The game at the Olympic Stadium is the perfect occasion to honor Bert Trautmann for the good work he did for German football in England,” DFB president Theo Zwanziger said.
“Bert Trautmann was a legend of English football in the 1950s and as both a sportsman and human being was a great ambassador for Germany,” he said.
Although his real name is Bernd, Trautmann is widely known by his nickname Bert, which he picked up while playing soccer in England.
Born in Bremen in 1923, Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe early in World War II, served as a paratrooper and fought on the Eastern Front for three years where he earned five medals including an Iron Cross.
Later in the war, he was transferred to the Western Front in France, where he was captured by the British as the war drew to a close.
One of only 90 of his original 1,000-strong regiment to survive the war, he was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Lancashire, but refused an offer of repatriation.
Following his release in 1948 he settled in the northern English county, combining farm work with playing as goalkeeper for a local soccer team.
Several notable displays attracted the attention of City, but 20,000 of their fans attended a demonstration against the decision to sign the former paratrooper.
But he won over City’s fans playing all but five of the club’s next 250 matches and in total made 545 appearances between 1949 and 1964.
He is most famous for the 1956 FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium when 15 minutes before the final whistle he suffered a serious injury after diving at the feet of Birmingham City’s Peter Murphy.
He continued to play, making crucial saves to preserve his team’s 3-1 lead, but his neck was noticeably crooked as he collected his winners’ medal and three days later an X-ray revealed it had been broken.
After his playing career, he spent nearly 20 years as a manager and in 2004 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for promoting Anglo-German understanding through soccer.