Timo Konietzka: Footballer andeuthanasia advocate

 

On 24 August 1963, playing as a striker for Borussia Dortmund against Werder Bremen, Timo Konietzka scored the first goal of the match in the first minute. It was also the first goal in the newly formed German Bundesliga. Dortmund were one of 16 teams picked to form West Germany's first top-level league since the Second World War, and although Bremen won 3-2, Konietzka's goal was the one fans and commentators remember. He played for Borussia Dortmund from 196065, scoring 93 goals in 123 matches. Sadly, his historic goal was not captured on camera.

He was born Friedhelm Konietzka in Lünen, Westphalia, in the Ruhr industrial area. It was an expanding mining town of 46,000 and for five years after leaving school Friedhelm joined classmates and family members working in the mines. He began his football career at his hometown club, VfB 08 Lünen. Max Merkel, the legendary Dortmund coach, recognised Friedhelm's talent and gave him his chance.

Between 1962 and 1965 he played for the West German national side, where his scoring record has been bettered only by Gerd Müller, one of the heroes of the 1974 World Cup victory.

From 1965-67 Konietzka played for TSV 1980 Munich, scoring 30 goals in 47 matches. He was nicknamed "Timo" by his team-mate Helmut Bracht because, he said, Konietzka resembled Marshal Timoshenko with his short, razor-cut hair. Konietzka eventually changed his name, legally, to Timo.

PLaying against his former club in October 1966, Konietzka assaulted the referee in protest at an alleged handball by Dortmund's Siggi Held. The Bundesliga dealt harshly with him, banning him for an unprecedented six months – still a record to this day.

He became a controversial figure among the fans and, feeling he had been unfairly treated, he began to look for other opportunities and moved to Switzerland in 1957 to join FC Winterthur. He retired from playing in 1971, moving into coaching and winning three Swiss championships with FC Zürich from 1974-76, and one with Grasshoppers Zurich in 1982. He reached the European Cup semi-finals in 1977, when his FC Zurich side lost to Liverpool. As coach of Young Boys Bern he twice reached the final of the Swiss Cup in the late 1970s. He also coached at Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Uerdingen and Luzern.

Konietzka gained Swiss nationality in 1988. In his final years, with his wife Claudia, he ran a guest house in Brunnen, on Lake Vierwaldstättersee. He and his wife were very much part of the community, even being elected to be key figures in the local carnival. But Konietzka also kept up with friends and colleagues in Germany, and freelanced for the Swiss tabloid Blick.

Konietzka was a great believer in "mercy killing" and in 2010 went on television to support it, saying in an interview that he was planning his death. He had seen many people die, both during the wartime bombing of Lünen and elsewhere – and, he added, "My sister died of cancer, a brother died of bone cancer... My mother was in a care home, and no longer recognised me. I have thought it over." He did not want to be a "care case", holding on to an artificial life. "I'll spare myself that."

Former colleagues remembered him as a very down-to-earth personality, honest and kind. In February he was told he had a malignant tumour in his bile duct. With the help of Exit, the euthanasia organisation, he took his own life. In his death notice, which he wrote himself, he urged everyone to make the best of their lives: "Mine was long and yet so short". He had certainly lived up to his own ideal.

David Childs

Friedhelm (Timo) Konietzka, footballer: born Lünen, Germany 2 August 1938; married; died Brunnen, Switzerland 12 March 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tv
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
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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
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