Germany’s last surviving member of the legendary 1954 World Cup winning team, Horst Eckel, has been honoured for his life’s work at the Sport-Bild awards held in Hamburg. The 87-year-old was lauded for his continuing work as an ambassador for the Sepp Herberger Foundation, which was founded 40 years ago by the legendary coach to use the integrative powers of football for the good of society.
The pensioner is still a tireless worker for the charity and was a hugely popular recipient of the award. German U-21 national team coach and Euro 1996 winner Stefan Kuntz delivered the speech ahead of the award.
“You became heroes of Germany in the post-war era, you gave hope to a nation with the title” Kuntz said. “The 1954 team never spoke of a ‘miracle’, but the miracle was for you to have done a good team effort. (…) That was, in your view, the secret of your success.
Eckel was 22-years-old (the youngest team member) when he lined up for Germany for their historic World Cup final dubbed the ‘Miracle of Bern‘ against Hungary in 1954. His strong performance against the Magyars midfielder Nandor Hidegkuti was seen by many as a decisive reason for the German’s triumph against the odds.
Eckel made his debut for Kaiserslautern in 1947 at the age of 15 and went on to win the German Championship in both 1951 and 1953. Eckel, a right half back gained the nickname Windhund (sighthound) due to his paceassiduous and adroit style of play. After retiring from playing in 1966, he retrained as a teacher, from which he eventually retired in 1997. He was later employed as an advisor to Director Sönke Wortmann for her film ‘The Miracle of Bern’.
In his closing remarks, Kuntz added, “Dear Horst, it was finally your time that the award went to you. You embody helpfulness and being down to earth. You have never seen yourself as more important than the people who love you.”
After a lengthy standing ovation, Eckel, who was accompanied by his daughter Dagmar was humble in saying; “It is a very great honor, which means a lot to me. But this prize is not only for me, but for all comrades who were there!”
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