Obituary: Reinhard Libuda

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A remarkable goal scored from the halfway line by Manchester United's young David Beckham ten days ago brought many comparisons with famous speculative shots seen over the years. One that the Liverpool players of the last generation will not forget was the freak drive that defeated them in the 1966 European Cup Winners' Cup final. It was scored by Reinhard Libuda, the West German international.

Libuda, capped 26 times for West Germany and nicknamed "Stan" after Stanley Matthews, was then playing for Borussia Dortmund and the final was at Hampden Park on a soaking evening. Liverpool were growing in stature internationally under the guidance of Bill Shankly and had beaten the famous Juventus and Celtic in earlier rounds before meeting Borussia. However in the 17th minute of extra-time, with the score 1-1, their goalkeeper, Tommy Lawrence, punched the ball out from the edge of the penalty area directly to Libuda who struck an immediate and match-winning shot in from 40 yards. It was not the only time Libuda had frustrated a British team.

Scotland will also remember him for being the player who denied them qualification for the 1970 World Cup finals. Playing against them for West Germany in Hamburg, his speed had the beating of the comparatively slow-turning Tommy Gemmell, and his goal for a 3-2 win ensured that West Germany went to Mexico where he played against England in the quarter- final. England's team of the time began the competition as arguably the best they had ever produced, except that in that crucial match Gordon Banks was absent with a stomach upset and Germany won revenge for their 1966 final defeat at Wembley.

Libuda played his part but with England two goals ahead he was obviously tiring and, in an inspired move by the coach, Helmut Schon, he was replaced by Jurgen Grabowski whose pace and skill on the wing inspired West Germany to a 3-2 victory in extra-time. Libuda was himself used as a substitute in the semi-final against Italy, who won but were beaten by Brazil in the final. He had to be content with a medal for third place

West Germany's team of that period relied a great deal on quick wingers. Grabowski was certainly fast and Libuda could be but he enjoyed drawing defenders towards him almost lazily before picking up speed and using his skill for producing accurate centres. He was held in high esteem by the fans, especially in his home town of Gelsenkirchen where at the height of a career that never quite reached the peaks, a large religious text on a wall once claimed "Nobody Gets Around Jesus". A fan added: "Except Libuda".

His career went into sad decline after 1972 when he received a lifetime football ban for bribery. Although the suspension was later lifted, he failed to re-establish himself in the game and drifted into a life of heavy drinking followed by throat cancer. He died in circumstances far removed from his days as one of Europe's most exciting players.

Norman Fox

Reinhard Libuda, football player: born 1942; died Gelsen-kirchen, Germany 25 August 1996.