Fritz Walter with Kaiserslautern in 1956.
|Full name||Friedrich Walter|
|Date of birth||31 October 1920|
|Place of birth||Kaiserslautern, Germany|
|Date of death||17 June 2002(aged 81)|
|Place of death||Enkenbach-Alsenborn, Germany|
|1929–1937||1. FC Kaiserslautern|
|1937–1959||1. FC Kaiserslautern||411||(380)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Life and career
Early club career
Walter was exposed to football early with his parents working at the 1. FC Kaiserslautern club restaurant. By 1928 he had joined the Kaiserslautern youth academy, and he made his first team debut at 17, continuing an association with the club that would be his only professional club.
International pro teams had repeatedly offered him hefty sums, but with support from his wife always declined in order to stay at home, to play for his home town, the national team and "Chef" (German for "boss") Herberger.
Walter was drafted into the armed forces in 1942, however, the end of the war found 24-year old Fritz in a Prisoner of War camp in Máramarossziget in which he played with Hungarian and Slovakian guards. When the Soviets arrived they in general took all German prisoners back to a Gulag in Soviet Union where life expectancy was about five years. Fortunately, one of the Hungarian prison guards had seen Fritz playing for Germany, and told them that Fritz was not German but from the Saar Territory.
Return to Germany
Upon his return in 1945, Walter, who by now suffering from malaria, again played for Kaiserslautern, leading them to German championships in 1951 and 1953. Sepp Herberger recalled him to the national team in 1951, and he was named captain.
He was captain of the West German team that won their first World Cup in 1954. Ironically, given the intervention of the Hungarian guards during the war, that win came over Hungary. He and his brother, Ottmar Walter, became the first brothers to play in a World Cup winning team.
But in 1956, after the crackdown by the Soviets of the Hungarian Uprising, the Hungarian football team were caught away from home, and for two years, Fritz managed their games and provided the financial backing and in small measure, paid them back for having saved his life. Walter received his last cap during the semi-final against Sweden in the 1958 World Cup, suffering an injury which ended his international career, and he retired from football in 1959.
Later life and legacy
The home stadium of FC Kaiserslautern was renamed the Fritz-Walter-Stadion in 1985.
Walter died in Enkenbach-Alsenborn on 17 June 2002, aged 81. It was his dream to see the World Cup 2006 in "his" town Kaiserslautern as the town had not been selected in the smaller tournament of 1974, but it was denied with his death. But on the fourth year anniversary of his death on 17 June 2006, the United States played Italy in Kaiserslautern and a minute of silence was observed in his memory. Today people may visit the "Fritz Walter Haus" in the town of Enkenbach-Alsenborn approx. 20 km east of Kaiserslautern (first exit from Kaiserslautern on Bundesautobahn 6 direction Mannheim).
During the eighties and nineties, there was another successful Bundesliga striker called "Fritz Walter", who mainly played for VfB Stuttgart. Although he had no relationship to the great Kaiserslautern captain, sports fans jokingly called him "Fritz Walter junior".
- German football championship: 1950–51, 1952–53
Walter's wife of five decades was Italia Walter, a woman from Italy.
It was popular knowledge in Germany that Walter appeared to play better the worse the weather was, and so now the term "Fritz Walter's weather" is used to describe rainy weather conditions, often rendered with odd local dialect grammar "of Fritz, his weather". This is because he, as many other soldiers, had contracted malaria during the war, thus rendering him unable to stand the heat of the sun. The 1954 World Cup final was played in "Fritz Walter's weather" conditions.
- "Tributes for the 'Hero of Berne'". UEFA. 18 June 2002. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- "Fritz WALTER – Germany's post-war hero". FIFA Classic Player. FIFA. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- "FIFA World Cup Star 1954: Fritz Walter". ContiSoccerWorld. Continental. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- The DFB page about Fritz Walter.
- "World Cup hero Walter dies". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 17 June 2002. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- Dell'Apa, Frank (20 June 2006). "Immortal, beloved German icon still a presence". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- "Golden Players take centre stage". UEFA. 29 November 2003. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- Fritz Walter – Obituary – The Independent
- UEFA – Germany's Golden Player
- DFB Statistics of Fritz Walter