KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY: Bert Trautmann, who has died at 89, was one of the finest examples of how sport can cut through all manner of divisions between nations.
The former Manchester City goalkeeper was not the only German prisoner-of-war who stayed on in England after the second world war and played league football; others included ‘Alec’ [Alois] Eisentrager at Bristol City.
However Trautmann was by far the most successful, helping City win the FA Cup against Birmingham City in 1956 most notably because he suffered a broken neck in the closing stages yet played on for the concluding 17 minutes.
He played more than 545 times for City between 1949 and 1964 and was awarded the OBE in 2004 for Anglo-German reconciliation work.
Born on October 22, 1923, in Bremen, Bernhard Carl Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe and fought as a paratrooper before being captured on the Russian front.
He escaped, was awarded the Iron Cross and returned to serve in France. Here he was captured by the French resistance, escaped again but was then captured for a final time by the British Army and interned at POW Camp 50 near Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire.
While awaiting full release he worked on a local farm and then with a bomb disposal squad in Liverpool. Simultaneously he began playing football for non-League St Helens Town then joined City, amid some anti-German controversy, in 1949.
Trautmann became a national figure after his bravery in the 1956 Cup Final when he insisted on playing on after breaking several vertebrae in his neck when he collided with Birmingham’s Peter Murphy with City leading 3-1.
Only three days later did Trautman learn the severity of the injury and how any one congratulatory slap on the back might have killed him.
Trautmann made a full recovery and, following his retirement in 1964, went on to manage Stockport County. He also helped the German federation, the DFB, promote football development in Africa and Asia.
In 2004, he was awarded the OBE for his work with the Trautmann Foundation, which promoted sportsmanship and exchange programmes between young and amateur players in Germany and the UK.
Trautmann, who had survived two heart attacks this year, died at his home near Valencia in Spain.
DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach said: “Bert Trautmann was a great sportsman and a real gentleman. He came as a soldier and war enemy to England and became a celebrated hero.” Manchester City called Trautmann one of the club’s “greatest goalkeepers of all time and a true club legend.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter sent a message of condolence which underlined the wider significance of Trautmann’s career, to both Niersbach and FA chairman Greg Dyke.
Blatter said: “There are few better illustrations of the power of football to build bridges than Bert . . . In his contribution to Anglo-German relations following the Second World War, [he] was a prime example of how football can be used to bring people together and forget their differences.”