CRAZY GANG JOKES LEFT LUTZ STUNNED

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Matt Bad­cock

FOR SOME­ONE la­belled the ‘Cra­zi­est Goal­keeper in Foot­ball’, Lutz Pfan­nen­stiel is well placed to give his judge­ment on Wim­ble­don’s Crazy Gang.

There’s a rea­son why the Ger­man’s un­miss­able au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is called The In­cred­i­ble Ad­ven­tures of The Un­stop­pable Keeper. It is a rip-roar­ing jour­ney through his jaunt across the globe.

Pfan­nen­stiel, 41, turned out for 25 dif­fer­ent clubs and is the only player to have played pro­fes­sion­ally in all six FIFA con­ti­nents.

Along the way he had enough es­capades to last a dozen life­times. He had a gun put to his head in South Africa, was wrongly jailed for 101 days in Sin­ga­pore after be­ing falsely ac­cused of match-fix­ing and even died on the pitch, not once, but three times while play­ing for Brad­ford Park Av­enue.

Dream

But it all be­gan after leav­ing Bay­ern Mu­nich as a young­ster and ar­riv­ing at Wim­ble­don, via a brief spell in Asia.

“When I came to Eng­land it was a big dream,” Pfan­nen­stiel says over an orange juice at Water­loo train sta­tion.

“I was with big strong guys like Mick Har­ford, Gary Blis­sett who would eat a goal­keeper for break­fast. Com­ing out for crosses in train­ing, in­stead of a nice easy catch like I was used to in Ger­many, I was knocked down. It was a daily thing.”

Although he never played for the first team, Pfan­nen­stiel learnt how to kick the ball long and got to see the Crazy Gang’s fa­mous team spirit first hand.

“It was crazy,” he says.“The prac­ti­cal jokes, I would call edgy but it was a nor­mal thing. Somebody pees in your sham­poo bot­tle, or burns a tea­spoon on your neck, nails your shoes to the bench, cuts the fin­gers off your gloves.

“I was 19, my English was av­er­age – school English. I could write you a let­ter but I couldn’t swear.

“I heard the whole time the word c***.You fat c***, stupid c***, silly c***, ugly c***, what­ever. I was won­der­ing, ‘What is it?’

“One day we went for some lunch. There were two nice girls on another ta­ble. They said ‘Why don’t you talk to them? They like the ac­cent’.‘Ah, no, I’m shy’.‘Just go over in­tro­duce your­self. Hi, I’m Lutz from Ger­many, nice to meet you two lit­tle c***s’. They told me it meant dar­ling.

“So I go over, very proud. They nearly choked on their cake! But they knew I had no clue what I was say­ing. Wim­ble­don was a nice cul­ture, a lit­tle like a fam­ily.”

Pfan­nen­stiel was at Not­ting­ham For­est on non-con­tract terms be­fore set­ting off around the world.

In Sin­ga­pore he was im­pris­oned es­sen­tially for play­ing too well, after con­ver­sa­tions with a stranger where he said he thought his team would win.

“I had no bed, no toi­let, no toi­let pa­per. I got treated like an an­i­mal. I got punched, I had stitches in my face, I was close to get­ting raped. I fought to sur­vive,” says the 41-year-old.

Non-League Brad­ford Park Av­enue gave him the chance to restart his ca­reer. In his sec­ond spell it was the place where it nearly ended for good.

On Box­ing Day 2002 he col­lided with then Har­ro­gate Town striker Clayton Donaldson. The ac­ci­den­tal blow to his ster­num caused his heart to stop beat­ing three times on the pitch.

When he came round in hos­pi­tal he was an­noyed the game had been called off.

Now, as well as be­ing Ger­man side 1899 Hof­fen­heim’s Head of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Scout­ing, Pfan­nen­stiel is a TV pun­dit and works hard on his char­ity Global United.

Igloo

He gets some of the best play­ers around the world, in­clud­ing Maradona, to turn out in char­ity games.

“We’re do­ing re­ally good things, es­pe­cially in Africa and South Amer­ica,” says Pfan­nen­stiel, who has also lived in an igloo to raise aware­ness about global warm­ing.“I don’t want to be a char­ity that raises do­na­tions. I want to get spon­sors who come in to build a soup kitchen to feed 400 kids whose par­ents have HIV.

“Ed­u­cate peo­ple about cli­mate change, to have a cleaner en­vi­ron­ment, for foot­ballers to think about our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.We have a big pos­si­bil­ity as a role model.”

MAK­ING SAVES: Lutz Pfan­nen­stiel had an in­cred­i­ble ca­reer as a goal­keeper

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