Snapshot: 1. FC Köln and the story of the wrong twin

The 1967/68 season turned out to be a tight affair with five teams finishing only five points apart from one another. Both 1. FC Köln and 1. FC Nürnberg could still contend for the championship when the two of them met on match day 29 of that season, but in the end it was Max Merkel’s Nürnberg that managed to pull away in the table after a 2-1 win.

One of the stand out players on the pitch was a certain Serbian right winger by the name of Zvezdan Cebinac. The Billy Goats defense simply couldn’t find any way of stopping the Serb, who was a menace down his wing for the entire match.

Some of the EffZeh players on the pitch that day might have thought that Cebinac looked familiar. The reason for that might have been the fact that Zvezdan’s twin brother, Srdjan, played for the club in the 1966/67 season.

The transfer that didn’t pan out

Srdjan Cebinac arrived in Cologne with lots of praise being heaped upon him. Köln’s president Franz Kremer was overjoyed after signing the player, stating:

“I don’t know anybody who treats the ball this well.”

Cebinac had stayed in the cathedral city to take part in a trial and impressed both the coaching staff and the president. Even then Bayern coach Tschik Cajkovski was full of praise for his countryman. However, after signing for the club, the Serbian winger’s form declined dramatically. During his trial he had been a world beater, and suddenly he couldn’t manage to get anything done.

One goal against Borussia Neunkirchen in a 1-2 loss, three matches in the Bundesliga and one cup appearance was the disappointing return of Srdjan Cebinac’s only season at 1. FC Köln.

Brother righting the wrong

However, as Srdjan left Germany his 15-minute younger twin brother Zvezdan arrived at 1. FC Nürnberg. Der Glubb was at that point coached by legendary Austrian coach Max Merkel.

Unlike Srdjan, Zvezdan managed to find his feet rather more quickly upon arriving in Germany. The younger brother debuted against Karslruher SC receiving the top grade by Germany’s biggest football magazine Kicker.

Both the club and the player managed to stay successful throughout the season. In the end the club and Zvezdan Cebinac were crowned German champions. Cebinac contributed 3 goals during the course of the season, and ended up playing in 33 out of 34 matches that season.

Kicker were impressed with the winger’s performances as well. His average grade for the season was an impressive 2.15 (1 being the highest grade possible and 6 being the lowest grade possible).

Before arriving in Germany Srdjan was told by his brother that the name Cebinac had been sullied after his poor stint at 1. FC Köln. Srdjan managed to right that wrong straight away. In the end the Serb ended up playing 93 Bundesliga matches for 1. FC Nürnberg and Hannover 96, scoring 8 goals during the course of the four seasons he spent in Germany.

Crazy rumour

But, how is it that Srdjan Cebinac arrived being praised by everybody who had seen him play, only to then turn out to be an absolutely useless player? The man was supposed to be able to do all sorts of things on the ball, but after he signed he wasn’t good enough to feature in EffZeh’s starting line up.

Given that Zvezdan turned out to have a far better career than his brother, it isn’t surprising that a German tabloid newspaper published a story claiming that Zvezdan had turned up for Srdjan’s trial at 1. FC Köln. Upon securing the contract for his slightly older twin brother, Srdjan than joined the Billy Goats and didn’t manage to reach the same heights as his more talented brother the story claimed.

This would be one of the Bundesliga’s greatest stories of all time, if it was true. Zvezdan Cebinac has always denied that he played in his brother’s place during Srdjan’s trial. Given that anybody arriving from Serbia in Germany at that point needed a visa, and that only Srdjan received a visa, the story starts to seem more unlikely. Add to that the fact that Zvezdan featured in a match for Red Star Belgrade the day after Srdjan’s trial and the theory seems even more unreasonable.

Despite those facts the story of the wrong twin has been featured within Germany’s press on numerous occasions over the years. Even given the fact that story most likely it isn’t true, it just simply too good a story not be printed. Over and over again.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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