The peculiar case of Lothar Kobluhn’s ‘Torjägerkanone’

Lothar Kobluhn – his name reads like the odd one out if one takes a closer look at the list of the Bundesliga’s top scorers during the 70s. Bayern’s Gerd Müller, Jupp Heynckes from Borussia Mönchengladbach, Schalke 04’s Klaus Fischer and 1. FC Köln’s Dieter Müller were the great strikers of that decade; however amongst their names Lothar Kobluhn can be found as the top scorer of the Bundesliga in the 1970/71 season.

24 goals in 32 matches is an impressive strike rate, however, Kobluhn accomplished that feat as a defensive midfielder. The Rot Weiß Oberhausen’s player’s exploits in front of goal didn’t go unnoticed. After having scored 3 goals in RWO’s 4-2 win over Kaiserslautern kicker wrote an article about the prolific defensive midfielder, stating that the strikers in the Bundesliga were ashamed, because they were outdone by a holding midfielder. In that article Kobluhn told the magazine why he was so successful in front of goal.

When I see how our strikers play together, there is nothing which keeps me put. I simply must get forward.

Despite the RWO’s best efforts the club was rock bottom with three matches left in the season, being two points away from safety. The 1970/71 season featured an incredibly tight race against relegation, and every team up to Hannover in 11th place could theoretically still go down at that point. RWO were saved by what seemed to be a herculean effort towards the end of the season, winning two (4-2 vs Köln and 3-0 vs. Werder) and drawing one (1-1 vs. Braunschweig) of their last three matches. Kobluhn had been a vital part of the late surge, scoring 5 of RWO’s 8 goals in those three fixtures. In the process the midfielder managed to pass Bayern München’s Gerd Müller and Kaiserslautern’s Karl-Heinz Vogt in the goal scorers chart.

Rot Weiß Oberhausen and the Bundesliga scandal

Normally this would have qualified Kobluhn to receive the much coveted Torjägerkanone (the goal-getter’s cannon) which the German football magazine kicker hands out to the top scorer at the end of each season. However, this honour was not awarded to the midfielder as scandal clouded German football. Three years ahead of the World Cup in Germany, Kickers Offenbach’s president Horst-Gregorio Canellas revealed at his birthday party that he had taped several phone calls which would serve as proof that several Bundesliga matches were fixed. Canellas continued, stating that his team was relegated, because of the widespread match-fixing which was going on in the Bundesliga.

The DFB’s hasty investigation revealed that two of RWO’s matches had been part of the scandal. Arminia Bielefeld had promised to pay the Eintracht Braunschweig players a healthy bonus, should they win against Oberhausen on the last match day (the game ended 1-1 due to Kobluhn’s equaliser in the 62nd minute of the match) and Köln’s keeper Manfred Manglitz had been bribed ahead of the match between RWO and the Billy Goats (Kobluhn scored 2 goals and the match ended 4-2). Both Oberhausen coach Günter Brocker and club president Peter Maaßen were sentenced to a 2-year-ban for their involvement in the scandal.

Kicker editor in chief Karl-Heinz Heimann thought it was best to deny Kobluhn the honour of receiving the trophy in light of the shocking revelations.The midfielder himself felt wronged and was bitter about the decision, choosing not to speak to any kicker journalists for years. Kobluhn has always maintained that he wasn’t involved in any wrong doing, but not all players at the time were convinced by that. Gerd Müller, who had been denied the top scorer title, shunned the midfielder (‘He looked at me like I had bought of all the goalkeepers’) after the revelations of the Bundesliga.

After he had retired from professional football Kobluhn drifted away from his club RWO, because he felt that they hadn’t stood up for him. The midfielder doesn’t look back fondly at the time after the revelations, he told 11 Freunde:

That was a horrible time. When we entered a stadium the people around us were chanting “match fixers”! Despite the fact that RWO was never sentenced. … Nothing ever really saw the light of day.

Kobluhn wasn’t willing to expand on that last sentence, but several of the players involved have been stating that the DFB’s revelations only revealed the tip of the iceberg. Former Köln keeper Manglitz stated in Ronald Reng’s book Spieltage that he kept his mouth shut to keep a number of other individuals out of the scandal. Bielefeld’s captain from the 1970/71 season, Gerd Roggensack, went as far as saying that it was a well-known fact in the 60s and early 70s that sides that had nothing left to play for were more than willing to fix matches for a healthy compensation.

The Torjägerkanone gets handed to its rightful owner

Almost 37-years after Kobluhn had been denied the honour which was rightfully his a number of events started to set things into motion. In 2007 the RWO board had started to take up Kobluhn battle once again, asking kicker to reward him the Torjägerkanone, because it was rightfully his. The midfielder received a letter from kicker editor in chief Rainer Holzschuh, who started off his letter by apologising to the player:

Dear Lothar, what has been lasting for a long time, is now being put right.

After more than 36 years of bitterness, hearing people in the street tauntingly asking him about his Torjägerkanone, Kobluhn wasn’t in the mood to receive the trophy at a RWO home match. However, during a celebration of his 65th birthday in 2008 Kobluhn accepted the honour. One of kicker’s editors handed over the trophy, stating that Kobluhn wasn’t at fault for any of the wrong doings which happened during the scandal. Seemingly touched, Kobluhn replied:

I have waited 37 years for this, now I can enjoy this even more.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

P.S: After he had become famous for his goalkeeping prowess Kobluhn struggled with injuries and never found the form he was in during the 70/71 season. He played for another four seasons, scoring 7 goals in the Bundesliga and 6 goals in the Bundesliga 2 (northern division).  He totaled 46 league goals in 185 matches for Oberhausen and SG Wattenscheid 09.

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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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