Happy 80th birthday Peter Kupferschmidt!
Peter Kupferschmidt is one of the heroes of the Grünwalder Stadion. To mark his 80th birthday on Wednesday, the long-time FC Bayern defender visited the place where he once made history alongside Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Sepp Maier and other illustrious teammates.
It's a grey morning, his gaze wanders up the now empty stands, then down onto the pitch. He points up to the 16 under the scoreboard, which is still the same. Over there he once manoeuvred a ball past Radi Radenkovic and into the net. He rarely scored as a defender, and goals against TSV 1860 were always special. Kupferschmidt takes a photo from the folder he brought with him. A black and white image. Hans Küppers is looking at the ball, which is going just inside the post. Radenkovic can do nothing about it. "You had to shoot accurately with Radi, otherwise it wouldn't go in," says Kupferschmidt. He himself is lying on the ground in the picture. His shot was so strong because of Radi - "I was knocked out by it myself".
Kupferschmidt's story began in Filipovo, which is now in Serbia and known as Backi Gracac. His family had to flee when he was three years old and ended up in Munich, in Gartenstadt-Trudering. Kupferschmidt felt at home here, and as he had always played football, the sport played a big role in growing up. One day in the summer of 1956, a friend took him to FC Bayern, and Rudi Weiß became his sponsor. Kupferschmidt played in a total of 283 competitive games for the Reds up till 1971, was a regular in the team promoted in 1965, won the European Cup Winners' Cup, the DFB Cup twice and the Bundesliga. "I'm proud of what this club has achieved and that I was able to be a part of this story - a very small part."
He was "always in awe of Beckenbauer", says Kupferschmidt, "even though he is three years younger". But they already knew there was a special talent coming through in the juniors. "It was clear to me a great man was making his way there. Either you have it or you don't." The opposition strikers "first had to get past Franzi, and he intercepted them with ease - you were proud to be there." Kupferschmidt shared a room with Müller for seven years. "An artist in the penalty area - and a lovely guy." And because Der Bomber got so many autograph requests, the roommate helped with the post. Müller signed, Kupferschmidt finished the letters. "As a thank you, Gerd slipped me a 20 or a 10, depending on what he had won at Schafkopf."
While Beckenbauer and Müller were ahead with their talent, Kupferschmidt tried to make up for it with fitness. They were especially fit under Branko Zebec. "We asked the referee if he really wanted to blow the whistle." Beckenbauer, Müller, Maier - his teammates "were my role models," said Kupferschmidt, who is now slowly packing up his small folder of great memories and looking up at the stands once more. "I played in the Oberliga here," he says. He was absent from the first Bundesliga match in 1965, but scored four goals in a 6-4 win in the reserve game. After Adi Kunstwadl got injured, Kupferschmidt stepped in for the next game and worked his way up. In those days, substitutions were not allowed during a match. "If Bulle [Franz Roth] ever shot too hard, we had to wait until the ball was back from the road," he recalls. And as the crowd grew, they would occasionally bow to the stands. "On command, one, two, three - bow," recalls Kupferschmidt. Then he says goodbye. He has parked in front of the stadium, where they used to warm up before the games. There, where houses now stand that didn't even exist when FC Bayern began to leave no stone unturned in the football landscape.
Photos: Amelie Niederbuchner