Jürgen Sparwasser – The Forgotten German

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Three national titles, four national cups, a cup winners cup and a bronze medal at the 1972 Olympic Games. It is an achievement that many a footballer can only dream of. Yet it is not because of his well-filled trophy case that Jürgen Sparwasser was included in the annals of international football. Sparwasser thanks his immortality to a single goal: the only goal in the only A-interland ever played between East and West Germany.

Born on 4 June 1948 in Halberstadt, little Jürgen played his first football at the local BSG Lokomotive at the age of 8. Nine years later, in 1965, Sparwasser moved to SC Aufbau Magdeburg, precursor of the successful 1. FC Magdeburg. He made his debut there on 26 February 1966 in the first team during the away game at Hansa Rostock. Two weeks after his debut Sparwasser scored his first goal. The game against Rot Weiß Erfurt was lost 2-1 but the goal was the start of a series of the more than 170 goals the young left winger would score for the Magdeburgers. At the end of his debut season Sparwasser relegated with Magdeburg to the 2nd division but thanks to his 22 goals the blues regained their place at the highest GDR level after only one season.

In 1969, Jürgen Sparwasser won his first noteworthy trophy by winning the FDGB-Pokal, the East German football cup. That same year, on June 22, the engineering student made his debut for the GDR in his own Ernst-Grube Stadium with a friendly 0-1 defeat against Chile. Sparwasser was on the eve of a great career.
The ’70s would be the golden years for 1. FC Magdeburg. The club from Saxony-Anhalt won the East German national title three times between 1972 and 1979 and won the national cup just as many times during that period. More than once the player with number 10 from Halberstadt played a star role in these wins. He scored the decisive goal during the cup final of 1973. It led to their participation in the Cup Winners’ Cup in the following season. Magdeburg performed remarkably well and after Sporting Lisbon was sent home empty-handed in the semi-final, AC Milan was defeated 2-0 in the Kuip in Rotterdam.

Despite 5 goals and a bronze medal with the Olympic team at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Jürgen Sparwasser would never really become a true regular in the A team of the GDR. Of the 15 goals he scored for East Germany in his 53 international matches, only one will remain engraved on the collective memory of football forever.

During the 1974 World Cup, on June 22nd, East and West Germany found themselves on opposite sides of the pitch in their third and final group A match in the Hamburg Volksparkstadion. Both A-selections faced each other for the first time (and as it would turn out also for the last time). With two wins from the first two games, qualification for the next round for the West Germans was already reached, for the East Germans a draw was sufficient. The result was a very boring game with little rhythm and a lack of initiative on both sides. Yet just when the whole stadium had reconciled with a goalless draw, the East German blue shirts struck. In the 79th minute on a counter-attack, 26-year-old Sparwasser evaded defenders Höttges and Vogts and then put the ball hard under the bar past a bewildered goalkeeper Sepp Maier. The goal caused a rare wave of national pride in the GDR, and the goalscorer himself became a hero of his homeland.

The goal also made the GDR the group winner and in the next round it was put in a group with Brazil, the Netherlands and Argentina and eliminated. The West-Germans ended up in a much easier group with Sweden, Yugoslavia and Poland, and would eventually become world champions.

In 1979, five years after his legendary goal in Hamburg and at the age of 31, Jürgen Sparwasser had to hang up his football boots due to a persistent hip injury. The ex-soccer player got his diploma as a sports instructor a year after his departure, but declined the offered job as a coach in Magdeburg. Sparwasser went to work as a scientific assistant at the Magdeburg School of Pedagogy until in 1988, after a veteran’s competition in Saarbrücken, he fled to West Germany with his wife and daughter. After having been active for some time as an assistant coach at Eintracht Frankfurt, the former GDR citizen became head coach from June 1990 to November 1991 at Darmstadt 98. After a last attempt with the amateurs of Rot-Weiß Walldorf, Jürgen Sparwasser stopped his coaching career shortly afterwards.
The GDR shirt with number 14, in which the left wing scored his legendary goal in 1974, has been on display at the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn since 2003.

Sources:

Wikipedia

WEISWEILER Hennes. “X. Fußballweltmeisterschaft Deutschland 1974”. C. Bertelsmann Verlag.

TRÄBER Terence. “Der Traum vom Europapokal: Fußballklubs auf internationalem Höhenflug”. Agon Sportverlag.