A man named Gummi and the dream of the Bundesliga

It’s the 15th December 1979 and Günther Storbeck has the time of his life. His beloved HSV has lost 1-0 away at Schalke on the day, but he doesn’t care because he’s spending the night with his mates. Their Christmas party is well on its way when the phone rings at the bar. The landlord of the Suppenkeller, the local where the Christmas party is taking place, yells “Gummi”(translation: Rubber).

Storbeck, who is colloquially known as “Gummi” due to his incredible flexibility, picks up the phone. It is his wife, but he has nothing to fear as he hasn’t been drinking. Gummi had, as always, only had coke whilst the lads had been drinking beer and heavy liquor. After the phone call the painter yells “Caramba” and picks up the dial one more time. He’s calling the German lottery foundation’s information desk to double check if his wife hasn’t been pulling his leg. After the phone call he yells “Caramba” one more time and returns to the table with a bottle of champagne.

The lads at the table take note of the surprising turn of events. Gummi doesn’t drink, so why has he returned with a bottle of bubbly? Storbeck enlightens his mates, shouting:

“I got six numbers right in the lottery. Today, everything is on me!”

A dream is born

The lads are partying hard all night. At some point Gummi is asked what he’s going to do with his winnings. Maybe a cruise, a fancy car or something more solid like a new big house?

No, Gummi doesn’t care for those things. He tells the lads:

“I’ll found a football team and one day we’ll be playing in the Bundesliga.”

The pet project turned out to be the 8th tier Kreisliga club Eppendorfer SG. Gummi has taken over as the president, manager, sponsor and goalkeeper. He is already 54 years old at that point, but he wants to play. In his younger days Gummi was known as “Kongo” due to the fact that he ran through the penalty area like a monkey.

Storbeck had told his mates a lot of different stories over the years. Amongst others, how he seduced a teacher giving him extra lessons at the age of 1, or that he had played for SC Enschede after the war.

Besides taking over the football club Gummi also decides to run a bar named Sports Eck. It is, of course, the gathering place for his new team.

The smell of professional football

Gummi spends big during his first season in charge of the club. A pitch is built, the team gets only the best of equipment and a fancy team bus. Even floodlights are installed at the ground, even though only 150 to 200 people make it to the games on a regular basis. The medical department of the club was even given enough supplies to undertake emergency surgeries if necessary.

Given that most away trips are only five minutes away by bicycle the big Dodge bus seems a bit out of place. When ever Eppendorfer SG arrive at away matches their opponents sarcastically state that “the millionaires have arrived”.

But, Gummi doesn’t care and spends an awful lot of money on securing the services of the very best players and coach Karl ‘Duddel’ Meyer-Emden. In the end his side gets promoted to the 7th tier Bezirksliga. To celebrate the successful first season as a sugar daddy Gummi decided to ride a donkey half naked in front of his team and some bemused spectators from the neighborhood.

The ride on the donkey was part of a bet. Gummi had stated during one boozy celebration at his Sport Eck that he would ride a donkey half naked through the streets if his team got promoted. At the Sport Eck all drinks were free for the players and the team took advantage of Gummi’s generosity.

All players were, of course, given good salaries. This was supposed to be professional football after all, but most of the players were either high on weed or drunk on Bacardi and coke.

The downfall

After a great first season things got out of hand. Players were signed on high wages and if anybody doubted the president’s wealth, he simply dealt out bank note after bank note to the players being present.

At that point the money had run out and Gummi took up loans to finance his team. In the end that avenue of income was cut off as well, and the team fell apart. One evening Storbeck arrived at the ground only to find out that the city of Hamburg had cut off his electricity supply. Unpaid bills were mounting, and in the end Gummi went bankrupt with the team getting relegated at the end of the season.

“You all took all the money I had”, Gummi would state later on. But, he wasn’t really mad at anybody. Being the leader of Eppendorfer SG was like a dream come true for the man. The players who have spoken about their time at Eppendorfer SG remember Gummi as a charming madman who could tell stories like nobody else. He had been engaged 16 times and claimed that he used to be 180 centimeters tall before shrinking to his seize of 160 centimeters.

Most of them had wished that those nights of the first season would have never ended.

A continued happy life

After Gummi went bust he spent the rest of his days playing the Lottery and getting engaged. Whenever he had a big payout from his winnings, the bailiff would come to pocket his new found money.

Towards the end of his life he worked at HSV doing odd jobs for the club. Gummi didn’t ask for an awful lot of money and did things like paint Anthony Yeboah’s apartment. Then-HSV coach Thomas Doll even helped Storbeck out financially from time to time.

When he died at the age of 78 in 2004 not many people turned up for his funeral. One of the people mourning one of German most colorful amateur legend was Thomas Doll.

Sources:

11 Freunde: Der König auf dem Esel
Mopo: Vor 20 Jahren begann ein Märchen: Günther Storbeck wurde Lotto-König und kaufte sich einen Fußball-Klub
Hamburger Abendblatt: Lotto King Günther: Mit 446.000 Mark in die erste Liga

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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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