The man who fired Bayern to the European Cup final for the first time
FC Bayern were just one win away from the greatest achievement in their history when they hosted Hungary’s Ujpesti Dozsa at the Olympiastadion in the second leg of the European Cup semi-final on 24 April 1974. The tie was evenly poised at 1-1 from the first game as FCB sought a first-ever appearance in the final.
“Mr. European Cup” strikes
Conny Torstensson broke the deadlock in the 35th minute as Bayern went on to win 3-0 thanks to an own goal from Jozsef Horvath (70’) and a strike from Gerd Müller (80’). They were through to the final. Swede Torstensson was essentially the ‘man of the semi-final’ considering he’d also put the Reds a goal up in Hungary. The conclusion of the story is well known as Bayern climbed Europe’s summit for the first time a few weeks later and Torstensson earned himself the nickname “Mr. European Cup”. In an interview with fcbayern.com, he reminisces about those times.
Interview with Conny Torstensson
You scored twice in the semi-final of the European Cup against Ujpest, playing a key role in Bayern’s progress to the final. What’s your memory of those games?
“We only realised later that it made us the first German team to reach the final of the European Cup. We didn’t know at the time, so it was basically like any other game. Maybe that’s what gave us the advantage. But, of course, it was great to score in both legs. I also scored in the previous round against Sofia. I realised around that time in spring 1974 that I’d settled in better at Bayern.”
You had a real habit of scoring for Bayern in Europe. With 10 goals in 21 games, you earned the nickname “Mr. European Cup”.
“Yes, I just seemed to have more luck in the European Cup than in the Bundesliga. But that wasn’t a pure coincidence. It was more down to the opposition’s style of play. In the league, teams were generally very withdrawn, which didn’t suit me. It was different in Europe – we had more space. It was maybe also down to the fact that my teammates seemed to play that little bit better in those games. That definitely had an effect on me.”
You won the European Cup for the first time with Bayern in 1974 despite the fact you actually played against FCB in the first round with Atvidaberg. You even scored a brace in the second leg. President Wilhelm Neudecker said at the time “The one with the red boots has to join”, and he signed you.
“The funny thing is that I wasn’t even wearing red boots. That was Reine Almqvist, my teammate. But we did look alike. They basically signed the wrong player (laughs). We were the underdogs and lost 3-1 in Munich, but we didn’t feel down and out coming into the second leg at home. We knew we could have a good game. The pitch in Atvidaberg was somewhat smaller and we didn’t just defend. We got forward so Bayern couldn’t settle into their game. We got stuck in and gave Bayern no time. We were ahead inside 20 minutes but Uli Hoeneß scored and the game went to extra-time. Unfortunately, we then lost on penalties. There was a great atmosphere on the pitch in Atvidaberg. Franz Beckenbauer even told me one time that he was impressed by it. I don’t think I talk about any game as much as that one. Shortly after, I moved to Munich. I’m one of the few players to play against and then for this team in the same season.”
Your spell in Munich was pretty successful with a Bundesliga title, three European Cups and an Intercontinental Cup. Are you still in contact with the club and your former teammates?
“I’ve been in Munich a lot in recent years, which unfortunately has had to stop lately because of the coronavirus. It meant I was in regular contact with Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, we always saw each other. I’ve also bumped into a few people at the stadium, like Bulle Roth. I also invited Sepp Maier over last autumn. He spent a few days with us and we went to watch a game here. So, the contact is still very good.”
You’re now retired, so what are you doing with your time?
“I live in the country and have a little slice of woodland. My daughters live nearby and my grandchildren have horses. I look after them a bit as well. You can’t do as much at 70.”
The 1974 European Cup wasn’t the only first for Bayern that year. There was also something new with the kits, which you can read about below: