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Günter Netzer: the original Bundesliga superstar



Playmaker and playboy, rebel and realist, multi-faceted businessman and prize-winning television pundit: Günter Netzer was the first true Bundesliga superstar.

Spearhead of a golden Foals generation
Two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Mönchengladbach at the start of the 1970s, two La Liga ones with Real Madrid midway through the same decade, and a UEFA European Championship winner’s medal as West Germany’s creative linchpin in 1972 provide the bare statistical bones of a playing career that still resonates down through the decades. Netzer was, and remains, one of a kind.

As a youngster playing for hometown club 1. FC Mönchengladbach, Günter’s precocious talent for combining football and finance came back to haunt his father, with whom he had agreed a five Deutschemark bonus for every goal he scored. After one particularly productive outing, Netzer later recalled that his dad had insisted on renegotiating terms. “I could certainly see where he was coming from. Five marks multiplied by 28 goals was a fairly gigantic sum back then.”

At 19, Netzer penned his first professional contract at Gladbach and by the time the club made the leap from the Regionalliga to the Bundesliga two years later, in 1965, Netzer was already running the show in midfield. Alongside the likes of Berti Vogts, Herbert Laumen and Jupp Heynckes, the loping general with the trademark blonde mane and unmatched skillset was a key player in the original Foals side which rapidly rose to challenge Bayern Munich as the dominant domestic force for most of the 1970s. “For me, it was heaven,” Netzer recalled. “To have the opportunity to help build up something like that in my own back yard.”

‘A genius’

Help he certainly did. “Günter was a footballing genius,” fellow Mönchengladbach native and Borussia’s all-time top scorer Heynckes later recalled. “A great midfield strategist who made the telling pass and delivered fantastic free-kicks and corners.” As Netzer’s on-field fame grew, so his off-field interests expanded. As well as opening a night club in the city and developing a penchant for Ferraris, Netzer enjoyed mixing with Germany’s artistic community, noting with fascination “the crazy way they go about their business, and how they compare with footballers.”

Netzer subbed himself on in the 1973 DFB Cup final… and duly won it. – IMAGO/Horstmüller

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Anything but your average footballer himself, the playmaker general bowed out at Gladbach in unforgettable fashion in the 1973 DFB Cup final. Having been controversially left out of the starting XI by head coach Hennes Weisweiler, he took the liberty of subbing himself on in extra time, before promptly drilling home a spectacular winner against regional rivals Cologne. With that, he was off to Real Madrid and further title success.

Highs and lows

Netzer’s finest hour with the national team came in 1972, meanwhile, when his inspirational midfield displays helped a West Germany team widely considered the most exciting of the pre-reunification era to European Championship success. A first-ever victory over England at Wembley in the quarter-finals helped pave the way for a one-sided demolition of the USSR in the final.

Wolfgang Overath (l.) had pulled ahead of Netzer (r.) by the time the 1974 FIFA World Cup rolled around. – IMAGO / Frinke
By the time the 1974 FIFA World Cup swung around however, new national team coach Helmut Schön had swung towards Cologne’s Wolfgang Overath as his creative playmaker of choice, and Netzer barely featured as the hosts marched through to their second world title. He duly picked up his winner’s medal but, true to character, admitted that he “never really felt like a world champion.”

Bundesliga hitting the ‘absolute summit’

His fame nonetheless continues to precede him like few other members of that triumphant class of ’74, and that is doubtless down to subsequent high-profile ventures into management and above all television punditry. In that capacity, Netzer was an unsurprisingly trenchant critic of substandard football, although without ever being inclined to wallow in any perceived golden age from his own playing days. Reflecting on the Bundesliga’s 50th anniversary 10 years ago, on the back of the first all-German UEFA Champions League final between Bayern and Borussia Dortmund in 2013, he noted, “We’re at the absolute summit, with records falling left, right and centre. On a sporting level, it can hardly get any better.”

Netzer’s footprints are part of the DFB Walk of Fame in Berlin. – Bongarts/Getty Images
For the national team, itself very much a child of the Bundesliga, it did indeed get better and Germany’s spectacular fourth World Cup triumph in Brazil in 2014 will live long in the memory. Together with long-standing co-analyst Gerhard Delling, Netzer was also awarded a national media prize for language in 2008. First and foremost, though, he is remembered to this day for his eloquence out on the pitch, and as the exceptional footballing talent who broke the Bundesliga mould.

Career statistics:

Date of birth: 14 September 1944
Bundesliga appearances: 230
Bundesliga goals: 82
Bundesliga champion: 1970, 1971
DFB Cup winner: 1973

Season, club, appearances/goals:

1965/66, Gladbach, 31/13
1966/67, Gladbach, 31/11
1967/68, Gladbach, 34/13
1968/69, Gladbach, 27/10
1969/70, Gladbach, 29/6
1970/71, Gladbach, 32/9
1971/72, Gladbach, 28/17
1972/73, Gladbach, 18/3

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Star Profile

Women’s Football Rising: The NWFL’s Vision Under Chairman Nkechi Obi




In the heart of Nigerian sports, a revolution is brewing, one that promises to elevate women’s football to unprecedented heights. Spearheading this transformation is the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL), under the dynamic leadership of Chairman Ms. Nkechi Obi. With a compelling vision and a 5-pronged execution strategy, NWFL is set to redefine women’s football in Nigeria.

The NWFL, founded in 1990, is Nigeria’s premier women’s football league. It has played a pivotal role in developing the talents of female footballers in Nigeria. Under the stewardship of Ms. Obi, NWFL is poised to create a league that is not just competitive but also resonates with fans and garners the attention it deserves.

The league recognizes the immense potential of women’s football in Nigeria. It’s not just about the game; it’s about empowerment, gender equality, and nurturing a new generation of female athletes. NWFL aims to harness this potential and propel women’s football into the national spotlight.

In a decisive move, the newly appointed Board of the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL) has embraced FIFA’s women’s development strategy, setting in motion a series of visionary objectives aimed at revolutionising women’s football in Nigeria.

A pivotal objective of this strategy is in enhancing competition, designed to elevate the standard of play, ensuring that fans remain engaged and thrilled by the competitive spirit exhibited on the field.

NWFL is resolutely committed to grassroots growth of the women’s game and expanding the number of clubs, particularly in the States and local government areas. This drive aims to cultivate a broader talent pool that taps into local potential, giving rise to the stars of tomorrow.

Participation is key, and the NWFL seeks to open the doors wider for players and personnel to enter the women’s football ecosystem. By doing so, it aims to create a vibrant and inclusive community.

Recognizing that growth is often a collective endeavour, the NWFL is actively forging alliances and partnerships with like-minded organizations. These collaborations will be instrumental in propelling the growth of women’s football.

The league’s commitment to the sport extends beyond the players and fans. It includes engaging all stakeholders, from states football associations, clubs, players, coaches, fans, agents, corporate Nigeria, commercial partners, to policymakers, etc., to ensure that the future of women’s football is a collective and well-rounded effort.

NWFL has introduced, subject to ratification at the Annual General Assembly, a ground-breaking 3-league structure of 216 Clubscomprising16Premiership, 20 Championship, and 180 States League clubs, (up from the previous 36 clubs – Premiership: 14; Championship: 12; Nationwide (now States Leagues): 10 clubs).This tiered system is a strategic move that offers players the opportunity to nurture and refine their skills at various levels, thus fostering a robust pipeline of talent for the future.

This immediate expansion will ensure that over the season, about 820 matches will be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, every week; keeping over 7,000 players, coaches, and officials fully engaged.

The adoption of FIFA’s women’s development strategy by the NWFL signifies a bold step towards the advancement of women’s football in Nigeria. With a focus on competitiveness, grassroots growth, inclusivity, a funding model, and strategic partnerships, NWFL is poised to make a lasting impact on the sport’s landscape.

NWFL understands that success is a team effort. Collaborations and partnerships with like-minded organizations and stakeholders are essential to realising their vision. Leveraging the league’s new stakeholder engagement drive–Women Football Rising©, several initiatives have been designed, including the“He4She© Campaign”, a transformative movement that aims to unite Influential men in Nigeria to support and empower women’s football and the “Sisterhood© Campaign”, aimed at harnessing the collective power of women across professions, businesses, religious, social, and cultural groups to empower women’s football.

The “Football and the Girl Child© Campaign”, is also an initiative that seeks to engage communities in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria and the FCT, to promote the safety, security, inclusivity and personal development of the girl child through grassroots football, while “Class to Pitch©”, a collaboration with Sports Business Institute, aims to train more professionals in the women football ecosystem (coaches, referees, etc).

Stakeholder engagements across the states and clubs have already begun, with the board engaging Nasarawa, Adamawa, Kogi states and FCT Clubs in Abuja. The familiarization tour has visited Delta, Imo, Ekiti and Ondo States and the engagements will continue up to and after the Annual General Assembly.

NWFL’s goal is to deliver a women’s football league that is fiercely competitive, with fans on the edge of their seats, brimming with distinct appeal, and governed to the highest standards. Ms. Nkechi Obi’s leadership and the NWFL team’s dedication, are steering the league towards this vision and the journey under this leadership promises a brighter future for women’s football in Nigeria. With a strategic roadmap, grassroots focus, collaborations, and unveiling of the Women Football Rising©, platform, the NWFL is set to rise and shine on the global football stage. The women of Nigeria are ready to take their place in the spotlight, and NWFL is leading the way.

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Jude Bellingham: The unstoppable goal-getter in La Liga




Real Madrid made an early statement in the La Liga title race, resoundingly beating surprise leaders Girona, 3-0 on Saturday.

Jude Bellingham was, once again, at the heart of Madrid’s win, assisting the first and scoring the crucial third as he returned to the line-up.

Girona caused problems for Madrid early as Yangel Herrera and Viktor Tsygankov both missed clear headers within the first five minutes. Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggled going the other way, too, as Joselu and Vinicius Jr failed to assert themselves on the game, and were admittedly loose in the final third.

But not for the first time this season, Bellingham changed things. The England midfielder picked up the ball in space, and provided a trivela pass to the advancing Joselu, who couldn’t miss from close range. Los Blancos added a second soon after, as a defensive lapse from a corner allowed Aurelien Tchouameni a free header to power home his first goal for the club.

Girona worked their way back into the contest after the break, forcing an athletic stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga, before missing a duo of chances from corners. Madrid should have put the game away at the other end, but Bellingham fluffed his lines under pressure.

He made no mistake at the second time of asking, though, latching onto a rebound and finding the bottom corner to seal yet another win in his burgeoning Madrid career. The match ended in controversy, meanwhile, as Madrid captain Nacho was sent off for a horrendous challenge in stoppage-time.

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The real Joao Felix has finally arrived in La Liga!




The Atletico Madrid loanee scored one and set up another in Saturday’s 5-0 win as Xavi’s side ran riot in Catalunya

Joao Felix scored one, proved instrumental in another, and dictated play for most of his 64 minutes on the pitch as Barcelona battered Real Betis 5-0 on Saturday. The Portugal international, making his full debut, quelled any fears about his fit in this Barca side, providing the cutting edge his team needed in a thrashing.

Felix opened the scoring in fine fashion, latching onto Oriol Romeu’s diagonal ball before evading the goalkeeper and finishing from a tight angle. His movement influenced the second, as the new signing dummied Andreas Christensen’s pass, which fell into Robert Lewandowski’s path — who buried his effort.

But Barca were never quite comfortable in the first half. The occasional wayward pass or miscalculated run left them vulnerable at the back, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen made an important stop to retain a 2-0 lead at the break.

The Blaugrana settled fully after the break, however. Ferran Torres, handed his first start of the season, grabbed the third, curling a free-kick into the bottom corner. Raphinha came off the bench to bag the fourth, finding the same spot with a lashed effort from outside the box. Joao Cancelo got in on the action shortly before full-time, shimmying around his marker before firing across the goalkeeper for his first Barca goal.

Betis offered admittedly little as the game wore on, but with Felix at the centre of it all, this Barcelona team showed how dangerous they can be.

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