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'A great man '

Dettmar Cramer turns 90

If you want to know how a globetrotter really feels then you only have to ask Dettmar Cramer. The future Bayern boss was the first German coach to take the plunge and go abroad – he spread the word in over 90 countries during his career. Cramer, now living in Bavaria in Reit im Winkl, celebrates his ninetieth birthday on Saturday.

“Happy birthday, dear Dettmar! We’ll raise a glass to you,” declared Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in congratulating the birthday boy who enjoys a special relationship with the FC Bayern chairman. A young Rummenigge took some crucial steps towards becoming a world-class player under the guidance of coach Cramer. “I’ve a lot to thank him for,” said the former striker, “he was a great coach who particularly helped us young lads make the grade. Without him I’d never have been able to follow the career I was fortunate enough to enjoy.”

Cramer worked for FIFA up to 1974 as an instructor and coach in some 70 countries before coaching the USA national team for a few months. He finally arrived at FC Bayern in January 1975 – and was successful straight away. “He is the only coach to win the Champions League twice with Bayern Munich – back then it was called the European Cup,” recalled Rummenigge, who sees the 1976 Final at Hampden Park, a 1-0 win against Saint-Étienne, as the “greatest triumph.”

'A great coach'

The only title he failed to win was the Bundesliga. The 1.65 metre tall coach, who was once mocked by Sepp Maier due to his diminutive stature (Cramer: “Sepp just has a different sense of humour”), certainly revelled in being photographed wearing a Napoleon fancy dress outfit. He enjoyed a very close relationship with Franz Beckenbauer, as Cramer explained: “When Franz and I are together we’re always on the same wavelength.”

The football aficionado was always open to new cultural influences, in part to earn respect amongst his players. Before taking up a job in Japan at the end of the 1980s he used two pencils to practice using chopsticks. Within days he was able to divide up fried eggs with them much to his players’ admiration. Thanks to his abilities as a ‘professor of football’, as he was often called, Cramer is still seen as the father of the game in Japan.

There is nothing Cramer hates more than failure. “As long as better is possible, then good is not enough,” was his motto. “I’ve always tried to do a bit better.” Cramer has not just left a lasting impression as a coach, as Rummenigge declared. “He was a great coach – and, above all, a great man.”