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‘You could always rely on Bulle'

Happy Birthday! FCB legend Franz Roth turns 70

Franz Roth wrote his name into the FC Bayern history books in his debut season. 1967, the European Cup Winners' Cup final against Glasgow Rangers. Roth, then 21 years old, scored the only goal of the match in extra time, wrapping up Munich’s very first international triumph. Today, almost 49 years later, Bulle (The Bull) turns 70!

“Dear Bulle, on behalf of FC Bayern I wish you all the best,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a video message. “You were a great and important player for FC Bayern, we could always count on you – especially in the European Cup finals,” the chairman recalled. “Many thanks for everything you've done for FC Bayern!”

The Bayern family remembers Roth's performances in the 1975 and 1976 European Cup finals in particular. Bulle put Bayern in the lead against Leeds United: the game ended in a 2-0 victory. In the 1-0 success against Saint-Etienne he scored the match-winner from a free-kick. “It was wonderful to score these important goals,” recalled Roth. The native Bavarian was an integral part of the Golden XI featuring Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier. “It was a wonderful time with a great team.”

The former midfielder, who now runs two sports stores in the Allgäu region together with his son, is amicable and down-to-earth. A smile accompanies almost all of his statements, whereas Bulle was as hard as they come when he was out on the pitch. Even his team-mates had to watch out. “I wore shin pads during training because I knew that if Franz was angry at me he'd floor me,” Uli Hoeneß once said. “Training was a struggle for survival – and I developed well as a result.”

Two stories tell of Roth's shooting power. He once broke a hole in the net during a match against Rapid Vienna. “The ball was in the corner of the net, but the referee didn't award the goal,” he recalled. “We then examined the goal and saw that the net was torn. Then he changed his mind and awarded it.” At the Grünwalder Stadion Roth once shot the stadium clock to the ground. “I didn't exactly bring it down,” he explained, “I hit the board displaying the scoreline. The clock was above it. It rattled a bit.”

'Everything's in order here'

The son of a farmer impressed during his first pre-season with Bayern in 1966, 50 years ago. “There's one who's got power like a ‘moo’,” former Bayern coach Tschik Cajkovski told the Germany internationals who had just returned from the World Cup in England. “The animal's called bull here, not moo,” native Bavarian Sepp Maier corrected. The nickname which has accompanied Roth to this day was born.

Bulle ran, fought, tackled and shot for FC Bayern in 322 Bundesliga fixtures. The four-time Germany international scored 72 goals even though his main task was to neutralise the opponents' playmaker. He is 12th-placed in the FC Bayern all-time scorer rankings.

Roth stayed with the German record champions for 12 years, from 1966 to 1978, even though he was coveted abroad, receiving offers from AC Milan and Grashoppers Zurich. “There wasn't a better club in the whole of Europe, so why should I have left?,” he once said. “There are always players who switch clubs for a bit more money and end up unhappy. Here at Bayern I knew everything's in order.”

Visiting the Arena with his granddaughter

He left the club at the age of 32, played at Casino Salzburg for a year and finished his successful career at SV Sandhausen in the amateur Oberliga before returning to the Allgäu region. Roth has been closely linked with Bayern to this day, regularly watching matches at the Allianz Arena, for example the 2-0 cup victory over Bremen when his granddaughter Fina escorted captain Philipp Lahm out of the tunnel.

Bulle says “we” and “us” whenever he talks about Bayern. He suffers when the club's targets are threatened and celebrates when FCB win a title. And he will be celebrating today, with good reason. Many happy returns, Bulle Roth!