Interview with Borussia Dortmund and Bundesliga Legend Manfred Burgsmüller

This is a re-posting of an interview conducted with Bundesliga legend Manfred Burgsmüller by Ben McFadyean from a few years back.  His footballing career spanned four decades, from the 1960s to 1990.  Burgsmüller passed away on May 18.

Manfred “Manni” Burgsmüller is a retired German footballer born 22 December 1949. He played as a striker and occasionally operated as a midfielder.

Burgsmüller appeared in 447 Bundesliga games over the course of 17 seasons, mainly for Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen, scoring 213 goals. Burgsmüller played in two distinct spells for local Rot-Weiss Essen and Bayer Uerdingen alike. In his initial stretch with the last club, in the regional leagues, he scored 29 goals in two separate seasons, followed by 22. Burgsmüller left Uerdingen for Borussia Dortmund In October 1976. At Dortmund, he acted solely as a midfielder, yet in addition had the most gainful years of his profession exclusively there, never failing to net less than 15 in any season in the Bundesliga). In the 1980– 81 campaign, he scored a career best – in division one – 27 goals, helping the North Rhine-Westphalia side finish in seventh position, and positioning second in the goalscorers list only two behind superstar Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who played for champions FC Bayern Munich.

Burgsmüller started the next season in scoring fashion, netting seven times in only 15 matches. In November 1985, at nearly 36, he returned to the first division, signing for SV Werder Bremen where he would achieve team success: he scored in his first game, a 2–1 win at Borussia Mönchengladbach, adding two in his third, a 6–0 home routing of VfB Stuttgart, and totaling 13 in only 20 matches for the campaign, as Werder finished second; during his spell, the veteran appeared in 115 league games with 34 goals, being an important attacking element in the conquest of the 1988 league title. Burgsmüller retired at almost 41, also having appeared three times for West Germany. His debut came on 16 November 1977, in a 4–1 win against Switzerland. After retiring professionally, he played as a kicker in American football. Manni is now a businessman based in Essen.

(Editor’s note: this interview was conducted by Ben McFadyean, of the Borussia Dortmund Fan Club London community page. We tried to keep the original expressions and translate some of the German ones into English in parentheses. Enjoy!)

BVB Fan Club London (BFCL):  Hey Manni its a real special thing for me to talk to you the newest honorary member of the London BVB fan club, you join a special group of players we are honoured to have as members including Subotic, Heinrich, Kree, Kutowski and Raducanu. Firstly thank you Manni for joining our fan club and accepting our gift of lifelong membership.

Manni Burgsmüller (MB): It’s special also for me as you are the first BVB fan club to invite me to become an honorary member, also London is a special place and I think it is really cool indeed that English fans come all the way over to Dortmund to watch their football. How many games have you been to at BVB? I am happy to accept the membership.

BFCL: Well my first season was 1983-84 so just one after you left, I was pretty young and I still remember the song ‘Manni Manni Manni Manni Burgsmüller, Hey Manni Manni! I guess they must have still been singing it even after you left?

You were a great legend for the BVB, it took some time before Dortmund had another attacker like you! I have been to around 200 BVB games give or take a few over the last thirty years.

MB: And you always go on the Südtribüne? Cool! I have seen the English fans in Dortmund. How many members of your fan club are there?

BFCL: We have around 200 members, I agree it’s cool to see the English fans in Dortmund, I guess we have contributed out part towards that too.

Manni, I have some questions from different fans in the club, some know you as the statistic ‘greatest BVB goalscorer of all time’ but in UK most have not seen you play.

First, I would like to acknowledge you for your amazing career at Dortmund really impressive top of the all time goal scoring list but just 3 goals ahead of Michael Zorc, the current director of football, former captain and all round great of BVB but your last match was in 1983 and no player has ever caught up, how does it feel to be at the top of this list and could you ever have foreseen Zorc’s success?

MB: Yeah and that is one record ‘Susi’ will never break! (Laughs) Of course I am proud of my time at BVB and the goals scored it feels like a long time ago now – it is over thirty years!

I remember Zorc when he first arrived, he was always ambitious, in fact I am certain it was me who gave him the nickname ‘Susi’ he had even longer hair than me, long brown hair, or was it Rolf Russmann (Rolf Russmann BVB defender 84-88)? Zorc came from a local team in Dortmund Tus Eving Lindenhorst, he was barely 18 years old when he joined you could see he would succeed he worked really hard – he was ahead of the curve.

BFCL: Zorc has become somehow the ultimate legend, record player in terms of matches and second only to you in terms of goals and a brilliant director of football. I was lucky enough to watch him play through the 80’s and 90’s, I actually still have an autograph card from the early 80’s with the long hair look too, UHU on the shirt.

Talking about stars, I would like to ask, I remember well this chant from my first season, I guess I heard it when you came back with Werder? You had already left by my first season which was 1983/84; ‘Manni Manni Manni Burgsmüller’, Can you tell us about the background to the song?  What did the chant mean to you? Was it a special tribute from the Südtribüne?

MB: I don’t remember how it came about as a fan chant, it was an Abba song at the time, they were a the massive pop group in Germany, it was a special BVB anthem, especially the first times but you know as a player you hear your name it makes you feel special then it’s total concentration.

You know the atmosphere at the Westfalenstadion was not like it is now. Maybe you remember the stadium in those times?

A story I can tell you, the Westfalen used to have open corners and always remember arriving in the team bus and we would drive down the side of the stadium to our changing rooms before the game and from the bus you could see the Sued was already packed to the rafters even 2 hours before the match they would be singing and celebrating, I don’t remember especially the chant, but Südtribüne Gaensehaut (Goosepimples)!

BFCL: ‘Money Money Money’ Yes, I remember the song it’s harder to see where that came from but now you see it.  As a simple fan I can’t even begin to imagine that adulation, but I remember well the Westfalenstadion with the open corners when I had a season ticket on the Südtribüne from 84 onwards and it was actually pretty cold back then not only because we were generally not more than 20-25,000 at an average game but also because the wind and rain would blow in through those open corners.

Sometimes in winter when there was snow on the pitch and you were soaking wet from that walk down the Strobeallee from the Strassenbahn it was a very long 90 minutes especially in those days when BVB were a middling team and a UEFA cup place for example in 87 when we finished 6th was a huge achievement ‘Europapokal, Europapokal’. To actually play in Europe – a bit like when I went with 1 FC Köln last month, to their now notorious for other reasons first European match in 20 years at Arsenal last month, that feeling, something really unique to be on the European stage.

MB: I still follow many matches of BVB and often go to the Westfalenstadion, as I also do the Weserstadion in Bremen, although they are not doing so great over the last two seasons and it’s impressive to see BVB now, they were a middling side in the Bundesliga when I played at Borussia, special but not in the way of today. The stadium is also spectacular now, it’s on a different scale. Then it was 54,000, not 81,000 as now, so the Südtribüne was much smaller, but still a unique atmosphere.

BFCL: It’s awesome you still follow the BVB matches and go to the ground even thirty years later, I can imagine the response from the fans is still good. You played with some special players although I came to BVB the season after you left, I remember the team Rolf Russmann, Lothar Huber, Sigi Bonighausen the young Michael Zorc and Eike Immel the keeper.

Immel left for VFB Stuttgart in I think it was 88 and I remember clearly he said he was ‘leaving because he wanted to be successful’ of course that very next season BVB won the DFB Pokal against your new team at that the the Champions Werder Bremen (4-1) in the final so I guess Immel missed that one?!

MB: Otto Rehagel is a special memory for me, you will remember that it was Rehagel who brought me to Dortmund where he was the coach.

With Rehagel as coach at BVB and Werder either, ‘Da stimmte alles’ (Everything was like clockwork). Rehagel was an inspirational leader, I was lucky to play under him at both Dortmund and Werder.

Immel was an exceptional keeper, when he joined he was just 18, a nice lad but green behind the ears, I think the Stuttgart thing somehow worked for him but he left a void at Dortmund.

You may remember one special guy as a fan of BVB? When I was at Werder, I was given a special task by Rehagel: a youngster joined the club and I was asked to ‘take him under my wing’ an apprentice, Karl-Heinz Riedle. I looked after him helped him to get his first apartment and showed him the ropes at Werder a special talent. There are some great stories but I think Kalle would rather I don’t share those (laughs)..

BFCL: Yes “König Otto” was impressive. I especially remember the way he took Greece to the European championship title. He was an effective coach at Dortmund but Werder was Rehagel territory.

Kalle, a legend in England and Germany (Fulham and Liverpool) and Champions league winner with the Borussia, I would love to hear those stories! I have met him three times in fact. So have you ever been to a Premier league match? Do you have a favourite English team?

MB: I worked for some years for Reebok the kit manufacturer and actually caught up many years later with Kalle Riedle when he was at Anfield.

Liverpool were a Reebok team at the time, it was my only game on ‘Der Insel’ (Great Britain ‘The Island’) but English football is special also I am a fan of Liverpool since that time. Anfield is special and of course because of Kloppo I still keep an interest in the Reds.

BFCL: So Liverpool is your English team? Did you ever have a chance to transfer to another club overseas? Players didn’t go overseas in those days as much as they do now, I remember Paul Breitner and Uli Stielike who both played for Real Madrid.

Stielike transferred from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Breitner who was a super star in those times from FC Bayern, they were both amongst the early million mark transfers but in those days far less German players transferred overseas. Can’t help asking do you have a favourite team in Germany by the way?

MB: Yes for sure. I had the chance when I was at RW Essen, I negotiated with RSC Anderlecht and was close to a transfer they were the UEFA champions at the time and were heavily sponsored by a big brewery it would have been a big move.

I joined Dortmund and the rest is history. Of course Werder and Dortmund are special, I spent the largest time there but all of the teams I played for are somehow my teams. No, in Germany my team is SSV Hacheney.

BFCL: Hacheney! The team you coached who were playing in the Kreisliga and you were part of the TV series as coach, I have read about it.

MB: You are well informed that’s great! I was part of a TV series for German channel Kabel Eins, I have not managed before but I took over coaching local Dortmund team SSV Hacheney for one season in 2004/5 and 2005/6 with the aim to keep them from being relegated to the Kreisliga to Kreisliga C.

We were relegated but through work and commitment we managed to bounce straight back to Kreisliga B.

We had an amazing time though as you will have read two incredible seasons, I had never done anything like that before, during the series we had guest appearances in the team by legends like ex Hamburg keeper Uli Stein, Gerald Asamoah, current BVB keeper Roman Weidenfeller,  ex BVB players like Michael Lusch, Michael Schultz, Wolfgang de Beer, Steffen Freund and ‘Ente’ Lippens all joined Hacheney it made great TV viewing but sadly the club are no more Hacheney folded in 2007 due to lack of sponsorship – fuer die Katz – ( wasted effort) but I learnt a lot and it was a unique experience – I am not a coach though.

BFCL: Incredible array of stars of BVB past and present, Reinhard Saftig I remember as Dortmund coach wasn’t he the guy who found BVB player Maurice Banach (BVB Player 1986-88) when he died in the car crash after the Schalke match?

He had a long connection with Dortmund over the years but I guess he is remembered more at Bayer Leverkusen as he won the DFB Pokal for them.  So coaching is not for you, you coached, you worked for Reedbok and I heard you also own an apparel company and even played American football? You have had an amazingly diverse involvement in sports. Tell us about the American football.

MB: You are right about Saftig it was a tough story, Maurice was a talent at BVB.

Also yes about the American football, I was then actually  a kicker with a club called Rhein Fire from 1996-2002 in the European equivalent of the NFL, the American football league for several years.  It was great. We actually won two World Bowls, the highest trophy in American football outside of the NFL.

BFCL: Quite a success but wrong ball for me.

Amazing that you were still playing professional sports at 51 the oldest American football player in history as far as I know. A signature question from me this time; I have collected football shirts since I was a child and have many although I have lost many over the years and some luckily ended up with my brother or my nephew so they are still in the family like the other day I found an Adidas Yugoslavia shirt which I had when I was 14 which my nephew now wears for football, it’s amazing how the shirts go keep going, which shirts do you still have from your career the UHU shirt was amazing also Adidas you will have kept some shirts from special games I guess?

MB: Looking back some of the shorts especially they were so tight, it is funny but I also like the classic shirts.

You may be amazed but I don’t have one single shirt from then, I gave them all away over the years, actually I would love to find one from that BVB era, if you get one please let me know would love to have one of those on my wall.

BFCL: I can imagine it was quite a difference to playing soccer now when they exchange shirts every game, no shirts? I have had the opportunity to interview quite a few ex-Dortmund players and you can’t believe how often they say the same thing as you about the shirts!

Maybe we fans collect the shirts more than the players, that’s my conclusion. Marcel Raducanu who played with you said the exact same thing. What about Germany? You were called up for Germany and played 3 matches as a fan it is hard to imagine what is it like to play for the national team? Your debut was against Switzerland in Stuttgart, what do you remember about it? I am sure you have kept that shirt from your debut no?

MB: No, in those days there just weren’t that many shirts to keep we handed them in and I don’t know what happened to those shirts. The call up for the national team, especially in my time was and is something very special, that chance to play for your country, I played only 3 matches for the national team, Helmut Schön the coach was a tactician and he was looking for a classic number 9 which I ever was, you remember? I was more of an offensive midfielder. I didn’t see enough of Die Mannschaft for these reasons I think. The debut was special you may remember Klaus Fischer?

BFCL: The striker for te national team and local rivals from the blue team from Gelsenkirchen? 45 caps for Germany I know of him, a great striker – but wrong team!

MB: The same one, it was my debut in the national team and I hit a bicycle kick goal which was not given by the referee but amazingly Fisher scored with an identical bicycle kick goal in the same match it was a trademark type of goal for him. I have no regrets but you know the national team was dominated by Bayern then.

Do you remember Norbert Eder, the Bayern defender? By far my worst opponent. Norbert was really ecklig (grim), I later actually played with him at 1.FC Nürnberg and we are still friends to this day but he was a horrible opponent, he always knew exactly what my play would be even before I played it. It’s like that with some in football there is a kind of intuitive play. Eder was like that.

BFCL: One question I have to ask Manni, you are the all time record goal scorer at BVB with 135 goals just 4 ahead of Michael Zorc, but Aubameyang is now just 30 goals behind you.

Aubameyang has been the subject of transfer rumours and this season he is having a challenging season seems to not quite have that edge, will Auba ever close that gap or will he transfer away from the Borussen first? Do you think Zorc would love to have your record?

MB: Yeah and he (Zorc) won’t be getting that record anytime soon either (laughs), Auba is a sensation he is light on his feet and has amazing speed, he has that instinct in front of the goal and he can develop further, Aubameyang deserved to win the  Torjägerkanone (Bundesliga golden boot awarded for best striker) but will he get the record? I can’t say, I am amazed it (my record) is still there 30 years later.

BFCL: Shows the class you brought as a striker at that time to the Schwarz-Gelben. I want to ask you now as we get to the end of our interview; BVB have two special matches coming up, you know the FC Bayern match is on this Saturday and then on the 25th the Revierderby, I want to ask you firstly what is the right name for the Blue team from near Dortmund for you guys as players what did you call it? There are so many names that float around one we don’t say it the one beginning with S.. maybe you can help with that? Above all though tell me as a player, and I always ask this, what does Revierderby mean when you are a BVB player? Is it really different to other big matches?

MB: Puh! Revierderby, it’s like a cup final every time, maybe bigger, it’s the whole atmosphere around it, everyone in the area is interested in this classic match for weeks before and after, there is nothing else people in Dortmund talk about and if you win it is celebrated like a trophy, don’t even mention scoring in it. Scoring in front of the Südtribüne is a lift, scoring in the Revierderby is something else.

Your question is simple; the players say ‘Herne-West’ the word beginning with S is not used. I will tell you a funny story about Herne-West. So for many years now, I meet with my buddies at the end of the week at a gym for sauna and we have some beers and one week a new friend comes to the sauna and as is customary ‘Gibt er ein aus’ (he buys a round) so the guy, I forget his name, turns up with a crate of beer which is not a bad start, except that when we get into the light we see that he brought a brand called Veltins, not a good start to the friendship, that guy never brought beer again. Now we drink the Essen beer Stauderbier maybe you know it? No nothing from Herne-West comes into my place not even 30 years later ‘Da kannst du gift drauf nehmen’ (an expression meaning “You can take poison on that or that’s an absolute certainty) its Herne-West for that team.

BFCL: We are honoured to have you as a member of the fan club London, BVB record goal scorer,  as my friend Elizabeth K from Dortmund said ‘Manni was the man, the Auba of that time, a legend’ it’s been legendary speaking to you today and for sure if I am in Essen I come for a Stauderbier, I will be at the Revierderby again as last season when we travelled in our BVB London taxi to Dortmund, if we are going to win big in a match this has to be it, I look forward to that.

MB: Thanks Ben, wir halten das so fest (we keep to that promise).

(Manni Burgsmüller was in conversation with Ben McFadyean of Borussia Dortmund Fan Club London, the interview was conducted in German and also translated by Ben McFadyean 2017. Copyright Ben McFadyean 2017.)


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As a commentator and media presenter, Ben is the founder and president of the Borussia Dortmund Fan Club London, an official BVB 09 fan club in England since 2013. The largest BVB fan club outside of Germany with over 400 members, they meet regularly in central London to watch matches, and have their own football team. A true "home from home" for all BVB fans. You can follow them on Twitter at @borussia09fanslondon.

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