Home Adidas sales When Uwe Seeler played in a League of Ireland game by accident

When Uwe Seeler played in a League of Ireland game by accident

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The death of former West Germany striker Uwe Seeler brings to mind the unusual story of how he played a league game in Ireland by accident.

As professional footballers, few were loved in Germany like Uwe Seeler was. At club level, Seeler terrorized German club defenses for Hamburger SV for nearly two decades, and also appeared in four World Cups for West Germany between 1958 and 1970, including captaining them against England in the 1966 final and scoring one of the goals that knocked them out. in Mexico four years later. At the time of his international retirement in 1970, his 72 caps were a record. Two years after his retirement, he became the second former captain to be named honorary team captain by the DFB after Fritz Walter, who captained their 1954 World Cup-winning side.

In club play, Seeler has become an icon of club loyalty. He scored 406 league goals in 478 appearances for Hamburg and turned down tempting lucrative offers to leave the club and try his luck elsewhere, even though they were not a particularly successful side at the time. The sum total of his medal tally for all those years there were two: a German football championship in 1960 and a DFB-Pokal three years later. But big money offers never seemed to sway a player whose modest lifestyle was well known and who became known as ‘Uns Uwe’ – ‘Our Uwe’ – while playing.

When Inter, who were building what would become Europe’s most successful club team during the first half of the 1960s, called him up in 1961, they mistook his lack of desire to leave Hamburg then that he was trying to negotiate a better deal. But the reality of the situation was that Seeler just didn’t want to go. He never signed for Inter, despite being offered an annual salary of 155,000 Deutsche Marks, in addition to a signing bonus of 500,000 DM, or £44,000 at the exchange rate. In the context of the magnitude of this supply in 1961, £44,000 adjusted for inflation from 1961 to 2022 amounts to £910,000. In the same summer, Inter broke the world transfer fee record of £142,000 by signing – unrelated – Luis Suarez from Barcelona.

But his playing career didn’t quite end with him as a one-club player, after a bizarre set of circumstances led him to play a game in the League or Ireland, several years after the end of his career. He had started working as an adviser for sportswear giants Adidas in the late 1960s while playing professionally, and after retiring from playing aged 36 in 1972, settled there as a career fairly comfortable post-player. . But in 1978, while working for Adidas, Seeler was persuaded to travel to Ireland to play in a match for one of his clients, which he had been led to believe was a a charity game. But that wasn’t the case, and the result was his only club appearance for anyone other than Hamburg.

Cork Celtic were originally known as Evergreen United and rose to prominence in Irish football in the 1960s, but it was a chance meeting that led to their greatest on-field triumph. Former England international Bobby Tambling moved to Ireland to engage in Jehovah’s Witnesses evangelistic work in 1973 but soon had the opportunity to play for Cork and ended up scoring seven goals as they became champions of Ireland for the first and only time in 1974.

And the success the club had with Tambling persuaded them to become big again a few years later in a league that allowed the signing of ‘guest players’ on short-term contracts. George Best arrived at Turner’s Cross in December 1975, but while his three appearances for the club drew huge crowds, he was considerably less successful and left after just a month. Former England striker Geoff Hurst arrived and fared better as a substitute, scoring three goals in his month, but no celebrity signing seemed to benefit Cork Celtic much; they finished the 1975/76 season in eighth place.

Seeler’s arrival at Turner’s Cross, it seems, happened almost by accident. An Adidas sales rep in Ireland asked him to make an appearance for Cork and Seeler, thinking it was an exhibition match for charity, agreed. Another former Germany international, Wolfgang Overath, was due to travel with him, but when Overath became unavailable to make the trip, another former Hamburg team-mate, Franz-Josef Honig, traveled in his place. But instead of being an exhibition game – and it’s worth remembering that at the start of 1978, Seeler was 41, an age not easily associated with strikers even nowadays, except from Zlatan – the game at their Turner’s Cross home was actually Cork Celtic’s game. last of the season against Shamrock Rovers. Their opponents were pushing for fourth place, while Celtic were working near the bottom of the table. It is said that Seeler didn’t even find out until the game was over.

Seeler wasn’t the only star on the bill that day. Shamrock Rovers were managed by former Ireland international Johnny Giles, and Giles wanted to make it Ireland’s first full-time professional club, and hoped to make Rovers a force in European football by developing talented young players who would otherwise would go to clubs in England. , or maybe beyond. Eamon Dunphy was originally intended to be in charge of youth development, but ended up playing for them and even won the only medal of his playing career at the end of the 1977/78 season – the FAI Cup.

And that day, Seeler and Honig’s experience was not enough to save Cork Celtic from a heavy defeat. Shamrock Rovers won 6-2, but there was something of a silver lining for Seeler, who scored both goals at home. One was a bicycle stunt described by a report the next day as “astounding”. Still stocky and just 5ft 7in tall, Seeler could still pull something out of the bag, even at age 41. the title of the Irish Examiner the next morning – but there was no way it was going to be anything more than unique. Cork Celtic hadn’t really enjoyed too many advantages from his game; attendance was estimated at “less than a thousand” and the club was already in financial difficulty at the time of his arrival.

Things would only get worse for Cork Celtic over the next two years. The club had decided that their best solution to financial problems was to redevelop the Turner’s Cross site, but sorting out the details of who owned the land and the land on which it was built proved extremely difficult. In the meantime, the club had not spent any money to maintain Turner’s Cross. At the end of the 1977/78 season the ground was deemed unsuitable for use by the FAI, leading to the club decamping to the Flower Lodge, another stadium in the city.

After finishing that campaign bottom of the table, picking up just eight points from their 30 league appearances (and a three-point deduction for their troubles), the club were kicked out of the league in 1979, folding a year later after a request to join at a lower level, in the Munster Senior League, was rejected. A legal battle over what happened on the pitch then ended in 1982 when another club, Cork United, were also kicked out of the League of Ireland. Cork City was formed in 1984 and continues to use Turner’s Cross to this day, having converted it into Ireland’s first all-seater football stadium in 2009.

As for Seeler, well, he ended up president of Hamburg in 1995, but only lasted three years in his role there before stepping down over a financial scandal he wasn’t even involved in. first place. His death was particularly mourned in the city. Hamburg were relegated from the Bundesliga in 2018 and have not returned since, despite several near misses. In England, he will be best remembered as captain of the 1966 World Cup final team in West Germany. In Germany, he will always be Uns Uwe, one of the greatest players in their country’s history. But in a small corner of Ireland and for people of a certain age with a good memory, Seeler is the man who showed up for a game and scored a fine goal that was half lost for the ages . For those who were at Turner’s Cross that day, the memory of that goal may be as vivid as any of the hundreds of others he scored elsewhere throughout his career.