Heinz Flohe: Football stalwart for West Germany

 

Malign fate seemed to single out Heinz Flohe. A member of the West Germany squad that won the World Cup in 1974, and a key figure when they reached the European Championship final two years later, his playing career was ended at the age of 31 by a brutal foul and he spent three years in a coma before his death, aged 65.

Flohe's tragic demise was hard to comprehend for all who saw him in his pomp at Cologne, whom he captained to a Bundesliga and German Cup "double" in 1977-78, or in the national team, which he also represented in the 1978 World Cup. Standing 5ft 9in, with a mop of tousled fair hair, he was like a one-man swarm. Fondly known as "Flocke" ["Snowflake"], Flohe was good enough to win 39 caps in West Germany's midfield in an era when, as he later noted, "the competition was fierce". It included another memorable player for Cologne and country, Wolfgang Overath, as well as Günter Netzer, Rainer Bonhof, Uli Honess, Bernd Cullmann and Herbert Wimmer.

Cologne had spotted his potential as a schoolboy. After signing for the "Billy Goats" at 18 he rose swiftly through the ranks to gain a Cup-winners' medal in 1968. He first partnered Overath, then replaced him at the hub of the side when they won both major trophies. His international debut came against Greece in 1970 and he scored the first of eight goals against Denmark a year later.

A World Cup on home soil in 1974 seemed to offer the ideal stage for Flohe. But when Helmut Schön did give him a starting role, in the politically charged group match with East Germany, he was "miscast", as he recalled, on the left wing. In the second phase he came off the bench twice but he had to sit out the final, played in Munich, while his team beat the Netherlands 2-1. He later lamented that he "never felt like a world champion".

In the semi-finals of Euro 76, West Germany trailed Yugoslavia 2-0 before Flohe was sent on. He halved the deficit before his club colleague Dieter Müller, also a substitute, hit a hat-trick and the host nation were despatched 4-2 in extra time. Even then, Schön did not start Flohe in the final against Czechoslovakia, when he again came on to help the Germans recover from 2-0 down. He scored in the shoot-out, only for Antonin Panenka's audaciously chipped penalty to prove decisive. Later that year, against the same opponents, he scored his country's 1,000th goal.

Before the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, Franz Beckenbauer proclaimed Flohe "the best player in Germany". He started the first four games, scoring twice in the 6-0 mauling of Mexico. However, the tournament finished with a familiar, unfulfilled feeling, Schön declining to use him in the last two matches.

There was further frustration the next season. Cologne looked well-placed to reach the European Cup final after drawing 3-3 at Nottingham Forest in the semi-final without their injured talisman. In the second leg his 50-minute cameo could not stop Brian Clough's side prevailing 1-0.

That spring, Flohe was sent off for retaliating against a Hamburg player; Cologne finished with nine men and lost 6-0. He claimed the coach, Hennes Weisweiler, had "scapegoated" him, which led, after 453 competitive games and 118 goals, to his joining TSV 1860 Munich. In his 13th game for 1860 a challenge by Duisburg's Paul Steiner shattered his fibia and tibula. He never played again.

After an attempt to sue Steiner for damages failed because intent could not be proved, Flohe took on coaching and scouting roles with his hometown team, TSC Euskirchen, and Cologne. But in May 2010, having twice undergone heart surgery, he collapsed during a stroll through his adopted city. Doctors diagnosed a stroke and induced a coma in order to prevent brain damage. He was supposed to wake after 24 hours, yet remained in a vegetative state until his death.

Arsenal's Lukas Podolski, a former Cologne player, said: "Germany has lost one of its greatest footballers, Cologne arguably its greatest." Toni Schumacher, the former international goalkeeper and club vice-president, mourned "an outstanding player and special person", adding grimly, "Fate hit him hard."

Heinz Flohe, footballer: born Euskirchen, Germany 28 January 1948; played for Cologne 1966-79, TSV 1860 Munich 1979; capped 39 times by West Germany 1970-78; married Ursula (one son); died Euskirchen 15 June 2013.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'