March 22, 2017

The Miracle of Bern: Interview with Horst Eckel

Horst Eckel is one of the two last surviving members of the starting eleven for the 1954 World Cup winning West German squad. This moment, known as Das Wunder von Bern (the Miracle of Bern) in Germany, was arguably Germany’s greatest sporting moment. Without a national league, and less than a decade removed from the tragedies of World War II, this team managed to make the finals. In the pouring rain, Germany came back from two goals down after ten minutes to win 3-2 over the Golden Team of Hungary. This was Hungary’s lone loss in four years.

eckel;Eckel, born in Vogelbach in 1932, began his career with nearby 1.FC Kaiserslautern’s first team at the age of 15.  He played in over 200 matches for the Red Devils, and was an integral part of the club’s 1951 and 1953 German championship teams at right back.  Led by the great striker Fritz Walter, Eckel was one of five Kaiserslautern players on the 1954 German World Cup squad.  Eckel was highly regarded for his energetic workrate and passing for both club and country.  It was his pass to Walter in the 1954 World Cup championship game against the great Hungarian team that was cited in Uli Hesse’s landmark book “Tor” that sparked a bit of gimmicky playmaking by Walter against heavily-favored Hungary because the upstart German side was “having fun.”

Eckel ended his playing career with SV Röchling Völklingen, a club based in the Saarbrücken area, in 1966.  The World Cup star became a teacher after his retirement from football, a career that saw 32 international caps for West Germany.  Herr Eckel  also holds the distinction of being the first substitute used, as he came off the bench in a World Cup qualifier in 1954, ending the “iron horse” era of football in which substitutions during matches weren’t allowed.

Fanatic contributor Kai Dambach  had time for five questions with Eckel, here they are.

Kai Dambach:  What was the mood of the team, of yourself, going into the final match?

Horst Eckel:  We were in the best mood you can imagine, same to me, because we had got the chance to get world
champions and never thought before that this could be true.

Going down two goals in under 10 minutes could not have sat well. What were you thinking after the
two early goals? What caused the comeback?

Qur team spirit (“Spirit of Spiez”) was the reason why we came back.

Where were you for the final goal? What was the celebration like for the goal from Rahn?

I was nearby Hidegkuti, as the most time of the game, so Iwas told from Herberger to do. The
celebration for the goal from Rahn was like the other ones, but after the goal there was the feeling that
we could get it and we told it among each other.

What ran through your mind when the match finally came to an end?

Are we really world champions? I can’t believe it!

What effect did the championship have on you, personally? Germany as a whole?

A lot of things changed in my life, many appointments followed and so I stood in public more than
before. The people in Germany were very proud and felt much better as in the years before after the
world war.

What bond do you have with your teammates from that World Cup? Did you keep in touch with any of
the Hungarian players after the tournament?

Of course we five players from Kaiserslautern met a lot of times to play football in our team in the
following years. Some of the others also played 1958 in Sweden. The whole team came together
sometimes for TV productions or benefit matches until the late 70’s.

I’m still going to meet Jeno Buzanszky sometimes. The last time it was in Spiez this year.

eckel 2

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