The Original Cobra: The Life and Times of Jürgen Wegmann

New Borussia Dortmund striker Paco Alcácer is grabbing all the headlines at the moment with his goalscoring exploits following his arrival in the Bundesliga from Barcelona. The media and fans, enamoured by his scoring prowess, are searching for a nickname to dub the new BVB favourite- ‘Doppelpaco’ and ‘Knallcacer’ are just two that have been bandied about recently, but ‘der Kobra’ (the Cobra) also seems to be popular after the deadly snake. However, Alcácer isn’t the original BVB cobra- that moniker was originally taken by a very interesting Bundesliga character- Jürgen Wegmann.

During the 1980’s and early 1990’s Wegmann starred for Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Bayern Munich no less, and dazzled everyone with his goals- one of which was crowned ‘Goal of the Year’ in 1988. Capped four times by the Nationalmannschaft, his nickname was self-inflicted after he gave an interview boasting: “Ich bin giftiger wie die giftigste Schlange” (I’m as deadly as the deadliest snake).

Born and raised in the heart of the Ruhr in Essen, his father enrolled him with local side Wacker Bergeborbeck when he was just five-years-old. He progressed to Rot-Weiss Essen where by some accounts he was a prodigious talent scoring a whopping 377 goals for their youth teams. As an 18-year-old, he made his debut for the first-team and it took him just three minutes to score his first 2.Bundesliga goal (the similarities with Paco Alcácer go beyond just the nickname).

He ended up scoring four goals in his ten appearances before adding a further 16 in 36 games in the following season. His talent attracted the attention of Borussia Dortmund and he joined the Schwarzgelben in the Winterpause of the 1984-85 season. The following campaign saw BVB finish in a lowly 16th in the Bundesliga meaning they were forced into a relegation play-off with Fortuna Köln.

It looked as if Dortmund were heading for the drop when the trailed on aggregate late in the second leg, but remarkably Wegmann grabbed a last-minute goal to take the tie to a third match. That was duly won and BVB survived by the skin of their teeth.

Wegmann however had already agreed to a DM1.35 million transfer to local rivals Schalke and the 1986-87 saw him wearing Königsblau rather than Schwarzgelb. He finished the season as die Knappen’s leading scorer with ten goals in 28 games, but once again, he wasn’t to hang around very long with champions Bayern Munich snapping him up for DM 2 million.

His career in Bavaria got off to a flying, but controversial start. In the first-ever running of the pre-season DFB Supercup, he bagged both goals in Bayern’s win over Hamburg, but was punched in the face in the 87th minute by keeper Uli Stein following his winning goal. Stein was duly sent off and later suspended for 10 matches!

In his two seasons in Munich, Wegmann managed 13 goals in both campaigns under Jupp Heynckes claiming a Bundesliga winners medal in 1989, but perhaps his crowning moment came when he goal against Nürnberg from November 1988 was voted ‘Goal of the Year’. An incredible overhead, acrobatic volley was more than worthy and thankfully caught on camera.

He returned to Dortmund in the summer of 1989 with the Ruhr club paying DM 1.95 million to bring him ‘home’. Four seasons were spent at BVB during his second spell, but the last two were plagued by injuries and his appearances dwindled. Eight goals in 47 appearances was his sum total and with his best days behind him and injuries severely hindering his ability, he tried his luck first at MSV Duisburg before returning to Rot Weiss Essen. In 1995 Mainz signed him for the token fee of 1DM, but injury once more hit during his one and only test game and he was forced to retire from football.

Dortmund gave him a job in their Fan Shop, but when this didn’t work out, Wegmann was forced to live off of state benefits. In April 2008 Bayern’s Uli Hoeness took pity and gave him a job as a security guard in the Fan Shop, but eventually he was unable to stand all-day and after four years was forced to pack it in.

Today, the 54-year-old lives back in Essen with the support of incapacity benefit. He has been tipped on a few occasions to be a celebrity guest on the reality-show “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here”. The original cobra is a long way from his heady days at Dortmund, Schalke and Bayern, but talk of Paco ‘the Cobra’ Alcácer has certainly brought the memories flooding back when Wegmann was “as deadly as the deadliest snake”.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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