Rolf Russmann: Footballer who came back from match-fixing charges to play in the 1978 World Cup

Rolf Rüssmann was a tough and uncompromising German footballer who bounced back from match-fixing allegations to play at the 1978 World Cup, but was then involved in the "Shame of Cordoba" match.

For Rüssmann, a respected youth international for West Germany and on the verge of a debut for the senior side in 1971, the Bundesligaskandal [Bundesliga scandal] was a huge blow and he would have to wait many years for a reprieve. It was not until 1977 that the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB, Germany's equivalent of the Football Association) eased their restrictions about appearing for the national side for players involved in the scandal. As a result, the national coach, Helmut Schön, gave Rüssmann his chance against Yugoslavia. Steady performances made him a regular and secured him a place in the squad for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

Having negotiated the first group stage easily enough, it was their final second-stage group match that was to cause huge embarrassment at home and ultimately see their early departure from the tournament. The West Germans needed to beat Austria, a once proud footballing nation, who they had not lost to since 1931. Initially, little appeared to have changed, with Germany taking the lead in Cordoba. Although Austria scored through an own goal and then took the lead, parity was restored within a minute. A draw looked likely, as did progression to the last four. But in the 88th minute, Hans Krankl scored his second goal to make the score 3-2, a result which ultimately knocked the Germans out. German newspapers saw it as a "disgrace", dubbing it "the Shame of Cordoba". Rüssmann would only play once more for his country.

Rolf Rüssmann was born on 13 October 1950, in Schwelm, a town between Dortmund and Cologne in the north-west of Germany. He started his footballing career with his|home-town club, FC Schwelm, in 1962. Scouts from around the Bundesliga (the German football league) watched his progress in the then new position of libero, or sweeper, with FC Schalke 04 eventually stepping in to sign him in 1969.

After an uncertain start, the young Rüssmann found his feet under the managerial direction of Rudi Gutendorf and became a regular for the Gelsenkirchen side. A successful career appeared to beckon, and with the club's results improving they eventually finished second behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga in 1972, as well as winning the German Cup in style, thrashing Kaiserslautern 5-0 in the same year.

The fairy tale, however, came to an abrupt end when the DFB investigated widespread match-fixing allegations. The investigation rocked the whole of West German football. When it was over, more than 50 players from seven clubs (Cologne, Hertha Berlin, Stuttgart, Schalke, Bielefeld, Duisburg and Braunschweig), as well as two coaches and six officials, were found guilty. All were fined, suspended, or in many cases banned for life, even though most were pardoned as early as January 1974. This number included Rüssmann and Klaus Fischer, future internationals, and Reinhard "Stan" Libuda, who had been a member of the 1970 World Cup squad. The clubs were also heavily fined.

Despite the penalties being commuted to bans, the scandal had a profound effect on Schalke 04, who might have become one of the dominant Bundesliga teams of the 1970s. The club itself had been accused and was found guilty of being bribed by Arminia Bielefeld for fixing a game, which Bielefeld won 1-0. Initially, Rüssmann and seven of his team-mates denied the allegations under oath. In 1976, they were found guilty of perjury. As a consequence, Rüssmann and his colleagues were handed another heavy fine. Schalke subsequently gained the nickname of "FC Perjury" among opposing fans.

Following the ban, Rüssmann followed others and went abroad. He found himself at the Belgium club FC Brugge temporarily before returning to his beloved Schalke in 1974, where he remained until 1980. Then amid much anger, a cash-strapped Schalke sold him to their bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund. He played 149 games for them and scored 18 times, remaining there until he retired in 1985.

Rüssmann took a break and then in 1987 returned to FC Schalke as general manager for six months. In April 1990 he went to Borussia Mönchengladbach as a successor to the long-serving Helmut Grashoff until a poor run of results saw him sacked in 1998. His final senior position was as general manager with VfB Stuttgart from February 2001 until his replacement in December 2002 by Felix Magath.

In later life, Rüssmann described the match-fixing scandal as "the lousiest business of my life" and pondered where his career might otherwise have taken him. He made a total of 453 appearances in the Bundesliga, scoring 48 goals, and made 20 appearances for his country, scoring once. He remains third in FC Schalke's all-time appearance list.

Rüssmann died following a two-year battle with prostate cancer, just short of his 59th birthday. He is survived by his wife, Eva, and two daughters.

Martin Childs

Rolf Rüssmann, footballer: born Schwelm, Germany 13 October 1950; married (two daughters); died Steinhagen, Germany 2 October 2009.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape