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The Legend of ‘Sepp’ Herberger: The German Strategist Who Rebuilt Football After the War

un home al costat d'un home en un camp de futbol davant d'una multitud de gent en un estadi, Béla Iványi-Grünwald, retrat de cap i espatlles, una foto en color, precisió

The Beginning of ‘Sepp’ in Football

Born into a working-class family, ‘Sepp’ Herberger, the youngest of six children, had to start working at age 14 after the death of his father. Despite working in construction and in a metallurgy factory, his true passion was always football. He debuted at Waldhof Mannheim at the age of 17, where he stood out as a goalscorer with a competitive character and inexhaustible energy. His talent led him to be called up by the German team in 1921, making his debut in a match against Finland that ended 3-3.

The Rise as a Coach

After his time at Waldhof Mannheim, ‘Sepp’ joined VfR Mannheim, where he accepted an illegal payment and was banned for one year. In 1925, at the age of 28, he scored the goal that proclaimed Mannheim champion of the South German Championship. Subsequently, he moved to Berlin and joined Tennis Borussia, where he began his coaching studies at the Berlin University of Physical Education. After graduating at the top of his class, he was hired by the West German Sports Federation as a senior coach.

Reconstruction After the War

After the fiasco of the German team at the 1936 Olympic Games, ‘Sepp’ Herberger was appointed as Reichsfussballtrainer, replacing Otto Nerz. Despite the failure in the ’38 World Cup and the suspension of international competitions due to World War II, Herberger maintained contact with his players and dedicated himself to rebuilding the team after the conflict. He was again appointed coach in 1950, leading Germany to win the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, despite not being considered a candidate.

The ‘Miracle of Bern’

At the 1954 World Cup, Herberger built a solid team around Fritz Walter. Despite a crushing defeat to Hungary, Herberger had a strategic plan that led to Germany beating Turkey in a play-off match, opening up a relatively easy path to the final. In the legendary match against Hungary, known as the ‘Miracle of Bern’, Germany won despite starting 2-0 down, making Herberger a legend of German sport.

Legacy and Retirement

The victory at Bern marked the beginning of renewal in a devastated Germany after the war. Herberger received recognition for his contribution to German football and retired as a coach in 1964. He died in 1977 at the age of 80, leaving a legacy as a passionate student of football and a charismatic strategist who knew how to motivate his players.

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