Bonhof's Black Hole

This week I was part of my company’s team for the Optajoe Football Quiz – the quizzing highlight of the year for the sports industry in the UK. My role: the team’s specialist on German football, of course.

So yes, I played my part in identifying the season that Uli Stielike missed a spot-kick in a penalty shootout – thus busting the media-manufactured myth that the last German player to miss a penalty in a major championship match had been Uli Hoeneß in 1976 – and enthused my fellow team members by identifying the crest of FC Homburg, a club once home to Miroslav Klose and now languishing in the murky depths of the Oberliga Südwest (V).

For those who may not have heard of Homburg, it is nice little town in the Saarland – that’s miles away from the similar-sounding big city with made the Beatles and teams that play in a brown home shirt famous. It also has nothing to do with the homburg hat, which takes its name from the town of Bad Homburg in the Land of Hessen.

Anyway – back to the point of this little post, and the question that stumped me completely. “Who is the only player to have won two European Championship winners medals?” The team concluded – correctly – that the player concerned had to have been a German, either one that played in 1972 and 1980 or one that played in 1980 and 1996; I knew that it wasn’t the latter, although this accolade could well have been bestowed on Lothar Matthäus had he not fallen out with Nationaltrainer Berti Vogts prior to the victorious campaign in England; it had to be someone who had played in 1972 and 1980.

A selection of names then cropped up: Vogts himself (who retired in 1978), Paul Breitner (who was not selected for the 1980 squad), Uli Hoeneß (who retired in 1976) and ‘keeper Sepp Maier, who had been forced to retire in 1979 after his car accident – and thus miss out on what would have been a guaranteed start in Italy in 1980. No matter how hard I racked by brain and scratched and scraped at the outer edges of my memory, I couldn’t come up with a name: knowing that it was the wrong answer anyway, we scribbled Breitner’s name on the answer sheet.

When the answers came up, it all came together – and with it a completely acceptable explanation for this apparent hole in my Mannschaft-memory.

Rainer Bonhof.

That’s right, Rainer Bonhof: Vogts’ assistant in the 1990s, and coach of the Scotland Under-21’s during Der Terrier’s ill-fated meddle with management north of Hadrian’s Wall. Rainer Bonhof, the man who cut the ball back to Gerd Müller for the winner in 1974. Rainer Bonhof, the man who was one of the men of the tournament in 1976. Rainer Bonhof, who along with Vogts, Günter Netzer and Jupp Heynckes was one of the great Borussia Mönchengladbach contingent.

Rainer Bonhof, who is not only the one man to have won two European Championship winners medals, but the only man who has won two European Championship winners medals without playing a single minute in either of the two tournaments concerned. No wonder I couldn’t remember.

Well, I do now. In fact I don’t think I am ever going to forget this little bit of trivia.

Having made his debut at the age of twenty for the Mannschaft in the 4-1 victory over the Soviet Union a few weeks before the tournament started, Bonhof would not put the Nationaltrikot on again until November 1973, when he starred in a 2-1 friendly victory over Spain where both goals were scored by his Mönchengladbach team mate Heynckes. He didn’t feature in any of the three first phase matches in the 1974 World Cup finals, but after starting in the second phase match against Yugoslavia he remained a fixture in the side. Of course, nobody will ever forget the part he played in the final itself.

In the two key matches in the 1976 European Championships against Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia Bonhof could not have done enough: he set up four of Germany’s six goals and scored one of the penalties in the infamous Hoeneß/Panenka shootout against the Czechs. Two years later in Argentina, he played all five World Cup finals matches. He was selected for the 1980 European Championship squad, but a spate of injuries meant that he would play no part in the team’s victory: like in 1972, he was presented with his winner’s medal without even setting foot on the pitch.

In a career that spanned some nine years, fifty-three matches and nine goals, Rainer Bonhof finally called it a day in early 1981. His final match for the Nationalmannschaft would not be one of his best – a 4-1 defeat in Montevideo against Brazil in the oddly-scheduled Copa de Oro de Campeones Mudiales.

After a coaching career that took him to such places as Scotland and Kuwait, Bonhof then became Chelsea’s scout for Germany and Austria – before returning to Mönchengladbach and taking up the post of vice-president at Borussia.

I’ll leave you with more Bonhof-related trivia. As part of the victorious 1974 squad he became at the age of twenty-two Germany’s youngest World Cup winner – a record that still stands to this day. Then there is the fact that although born in the town of Emmerich am Rhein in North Rhine-Westphalia, both of Bonhof’s parents were Dutch.

I bet those guys in orange really loved him.

Bonhof’s Black Hole
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