CRAZY GANG JOKES LEFT LUTZ STUNNED
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.
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.
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