In an extract from his new history of German football, Tor!, Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger recalls the sensation of the 1971 Bundesliga bribery scandal
Despite his name, the German-born Spaniard Horst Gregorio Canellas was not a Cosa Nostra don but an importer of bananas. Legend has it he supplied the DFB (German FA) headquarters. He had a raspy voice worthy of Al Pacino and was a chain-smoker, despite persistent asthma problems. He had also been the president of Kickers Offenbach since 1964.
On June 6, 1971, Canellas celebrated his 50th birthday with a big party at his home. Among the guests were the national coach Helmut Schön and the DFB general secretary Wilfried Straub, plus a few selected journalists. The main surprise on display was not the lavish buffet, but a tape recorder sitting on a table in the middle of the patio. There was a smile frozen on Canellas’s face that made a few of the well-wishers uneasy. Offenbach had been relegated from the Bundesliga the day before, but Canellas looked almost pleased. He said something about having “interesting news”, and then a man named Theo Hinz pressed the Play button. The Bundesliga scandal was under way
The party guests first heard taped phone calls between Canellas and two Hertha Berlin players – Tasso Wild and Bernd Patzke. Then there was a recording of Cologne and West Germany goalkeeper Manfred Manglitz. Wild and Patzke wanted DM140,000 from Canellas for beating Bielefeld, Offenbach’s rivals in the relegation zone. Wild said Bielefeld had already offered DM220,000 for Hertha to lose (“For heaven’s sake!” Canellas groaned on tape), but that he had a soft spot for Kickers and would settle for DM140,000. Manglitz, meanwhile, demanded DM100,000 from Canellas for Cologne to lose to Offenbach.
It has never become clear whether Canellas was really doing what he later claimed, namely playing along with the cheats merely to collect evidence. We know he first got in touch with the DFB in early May, after a call from Manglitz demanding DM25,000 for beating Essen, hinting he might otherwise have a bad day. The DFB had to admit there was nothing in the rules to forbid such a third-party “win bonus”. From then on, Canellas tried to find out who was paying whom, his suspicion aroused by the fact that relegation fodder like Oberhausen and Bielefeld had suddenly become unbeatable. However, whenever he asked the DFB to investigate, he was turned away.
Canellas did not pay Manglitz for the Cologne v Offenbach match, the last game of the season. Instead he took his five-year-old son and drove to the house of Cologne’s captain Wolfgang Overath, whom he knew to be clean. There he spilled the beans. (The boy’s presence was meant to prove Canellas wasn’t playing tricks. He also provided the cue for his heart-rending statement that: “My son is the only person I can still look in the eye without suspicion.”) Manglitz was left out of the Cologne side and Offenbach lost 4-2. A draw would have been enough for Kickers to be safe and indeed they held on to a point until 12 minutes from time. But Oberhausen drew at Braunschweig and, incredibly, Bielefeld won 1-0 in Berlin against Patzke and Wild.
Offenbach were down, but only temporarily – at least that’s what Canellas figured. Once he produced his information, the DFB would have no choice but to demote Bielefeld and keep Kickers in the league. As it turned out, he had underestimated the discretion of the conspirators as well as the ignorance of the DFB. In July, Patzke was suspended for ten years, while life bans were imposed on Wild, Manglitz – and Canellas. After all, the Offenbach president had admitted to attempted bribery, argued the investigators.
The DFB managed to make a bad situation worse by turning a blind eye and hoping the storm would pass. Because now an outraged Canellas went on a solitary, Phillip Marlow-style trip into the netherworld of bungs and bribes. Tipped off by reporters sensing the story of their lives, bit players seeking publicity and even wives out for revenge, he came up with more dirt than even professional cynics had thought possible.
Bielefeld had indeed paid Hertha to lose, Canellas found out, handing out roughly DM15,000 to each Berlin player. The Offenbach president then learned that Max Lorenz, an international with Braunschweig, had been given DM40,000 because his team drew with Oberhausen on the last day of the season, the implication being that Braunschweig may have accidentally lost otherwise. Oberhausen were less than innocent themselves: their chairman Peter Maassen had shelled out DM30,000 for a much-needed victory in Cologne, and possibly also for a win at Bremen.
Schalke had been bought too, Canellas discovered. The sum of DM40,000 had obtained three points for Bielefeld against them. Eight Schalke players immediately sued for libel, among them Rolf Rüssmann and Klaus Fischer, future internationals, and Reinhard Libuda and Klaus Fichtel, members of West Germany’s 1970 World Cup squad (as were Manglitz, Patzke and Lorenz).
The extent of the accusations was enormous. Two thirds of all Bundesliga clubs found themselves implicated. VfB Stuttgart admitted members of their team had conspired to lose at Bielefeld. It was also established that Eintracht Frankfurt were at the very least approached with an offer to throw games of which they did not inform the DFB. And an Offenbach player claimed Frankfurt’s Jürgen Grabowski promised him DM2,000 for performing badly. (Grabowski defended himself by saying: “I was only kidding.” Three years later he won the World Cup.) It was then proved that Bielefeld officials had met Duisburg’s coach to negotiate a deal. Finally, even Bayern Munich were mentioned: Duisburg’s goalkeeper said he was to receive DM12,000 for letting in a few more than necessary against a Bayern side in need of a better goal difference.
When it was all over, more than 50 players from seven clubs (Cologne, Hertha, Stuttgart, Schalke, Bielefeld, Duisburg and Braunschweig), two coaches and six officials were found guilty by the DFB. All were fined and suspended, in many cases for life, though most were pardoned as early as 1974. For Schalke’s Reinhard Libuda, that was too late. He was nearly 30 when he was suspended, and the scandal not only cost him his career but also a decent life. Tormented by guilt and a feeling that he had been misunderstood, he became a habitual drinker. In 1976, he and his seven Schalke team-mates were found guilty of perjury and Libuda never recovered. His health deteriorated and for a while he lived on the dole. He died in 1996, aged 52. Even then, his club were still greeted with chants of “FC Perjury” when visiting places like Dortmund.
Bielefeld were demoted to the regional leagues but, incredibly, Offenbach’s relegation stood – as did the conviction of Canellas. Consumed with bitterness, he left for Mallorca. The DFB pardoned him in 1974, but that was scant consolation for the man who had exposed the biggest scandal in German football. Canellas died of a lung disease in 1999 – a few weeks after once-proud Kickers Offenbach finally won promotion back to the Second Division of the Bundesliga.
From WSC 183 May 2002. What was happening this month