March 22, 2017

Bundesliga Snapshot: Timo Konietzka’s scandalous reunion with his former teammates

Kicker magazine called it “Skandalspiel der Giganten” – a scandalous game of the giants. The giants in question were 1860 Munich and Borussia Dortmund that played in an infamous grudge match on Matchday 8 of the 1966-67 Bundesliga season. Both clubs had been two of the more successful teams in German football in the early years of the Bundesliga.

When the national league began in 1963 there was no dominant force in the game. Bayern Munich’s rise was only a few years away but in the meantime the Bundesliga title changed hands between clubs that would seem unlikely champions today. 1.FC Köln, Werder Bremen and Eintracht Braunschweig lifted the salad bowl in the first four seasons of the Bundesliga. As did 1860 Munich.

1860’s first and last national championship came in 1965-66 season. They fought for the title with Borussia Dortmund. The Bavarians were top of the table for most of the Hinründe but conceded top spot to BVB for the bulk of the second half of the season. However, Borussia faltered in the last few games at the end of the campaign and 1860 claimed the title after a showdown at Dortmund’s Rote Erde stadium in the penultimate game of the season.

Dortmund, who had won the championship as recently as 1963 were playing in two competitions towards the end of that season: the Bundesliga and the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup which BVB won on 5th May in Hampden Park, Glasgow against Bill Shankly’s Liverpool. But this victory, the first European club title for a German club, came at a price as they lost their final three games and the title.

Of course the table never lies and it would be churlish to say that 1860’s victory was due to Dortmund’s fatigue. But the Munich club’s success came thanks in large part to the goals of Friedhelm “Timo” Konietzka who scored 26 times in 33 games in his first season for the club after his transfer… from Borussia Dortmund.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of the genesis of the Bundesliga will know Konietzka as the player who scored the first goal in Bundesliga history. This goal is as famous for its significance as it is for the fact that it came so early in the game that the tardy camera crew never captured the moment on film.

Konietzka remains one of Dortmund’s most prolific goal scorers. A lithe and robust striker, he joined BVB in 1958. He scored 79 goals in 110 games in the old Oberliga West, 40 in 53 Bundesliga matches plus five goals in 11 European ties. Konietzka won the Oberliga national Championship in ’63, the DFB Pokal in 65 and was part of the great Dortmund team that reached the semi-final of the 63/64 European Cup, beating the mighty Benfica 5-0 on the way.

The nicknamed “Timo” was given to him by his teammates due to his passing resemblance to the Soviet general Semyon Timoshenko. It was a name that, later in life, he would legally adopt.

Timo left Dortmund to join former Dortmund manager Max Merkel at 1860. The transfer was understandably an unpopular one among the Dortmund fans and players. When it was announced, prior to the 1965 DFB Pokal Final against Aachen, there was some dispute in the dressing room before the game as to whether Konietzka should play. He did, Dortmund won and the way was paved, not just for their success in Glasgow the following season, but for their failure to win the title.

This was the backdrop for the first league fixture between the two teams in front of a packed Grünwald Stadium in Munich in October 1966. It was always likely to be a tasty match but few would have predicted that would end in such acrimony.

The controversy began in the first half when 1860’s Rudolf Brunnenmeier won a penalty after a full bloodied challenge by Wolfgang Paul. The Dortmund skipper was furious and indicated that he’d taken the ball fair and square. After have seen a reasonable amount of 1960s German football it did seem like a fair tackle (fair, at least in 1966). However, the referee Max Spinnler, was unmoved.

As it happens, Brunnenmeier missed the spot kick. The Dortmund player’s jubilation bordered on poor sportsmanship. Brunnenmeier however was not to be denied after 38 minutes however, as he slotted home, unmarked at the far post.

The match progressed in a full-blooded manner. Both teams hit the woodwork but Dortmund were reportedly the better team in the second half. In fact BVB won the game 2-1. The equaliser came from Konietzka’s effective replacement as top goal scorer Lothar Emmerich on 75 minutes. The winner came six minutes later on the break and provided the flashpoint of the game.

Siggi Held looked to have diverted a speculative shot from Dieter Kurrat with his hand just inside the penalty area. The touch allowed Held to control the ball and score the winner with a crisp finish.

The 1860 players and touchline staff were convinced Held handled the ball and mobbed the linesman. The home fans were furious and threw cans onto the pitch. It was during the pandemonium that Konietzka is alleged to have assaulted the referee with what Kicker reported a “bump to the chest, a kick against the shinbone and punching the whistle away.”

Konietzka was sent off along with his teammate Manfred Wagner who manhandled the linesman. The former Dortmunder was banned for a mammoth six months, a punishment that he considered to be way too harsh. In fact, Konietzka continued to protest his innocence for years after. 1860 raise a petition to have the suspension shortened but the DFB were having none of it.

In an interview in 2003, Konietzka claimed to have been booed wherever he went after what happened. He said later that this experience partly informed his decision to leave Germany for Swiss second division team, Winterthur.

At 28, Konietzka could have gone on to even greater success in Germany are perhaps Italy or Spain. He left Munich in 1967 for Switzerland, where it should be said were paying better than German clubs at the time.

Konietzka was the Robert Lewandowski of his day and was the rival of Gerd Müller as a goal scorer it’s hard to imagine a player of his caliber being allowed to descend into relative obscurity today. Apart from anything else the incident would have been scrutinised from multiple camera angles. Unfortunately and not for the first time, a big moment in Timo Konietzka’s career was not caught on camera so we’ll never know what really happened. What we can say is that the career of a great Bundesliga player was sadly curtailed after that day in Munich.

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