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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
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

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers



£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'