Norbert Nachtweih : The Uncapped Koenig


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The versatile NORBERT NACHTWEIH, who first gained notoriety after defecting from the East Germany U-21 national team while traveling in Turkey a dozen years earlier, on the ball for Bayern Munich at the pre-season 1988 Wembley Invitational Tournament in London, England. (Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
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The blog continues its celebration of German Reunification and look at football in East Germany as Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern Munich prepare to battle in the Bundesliga this weekend.

Difficult then, to not discuss, if only briefly, the decorated old Bundesliga profi, NORBERT NACHTWEIH, with all this in mind.

Readers who took in the highlights of the match featured in “Turn Back The Clock 25 Years : Borussia Moenchengladbach v Bayern Munich” will remember Nachtweih for his spectacular, long-range blast from a free kick.

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Bayern Munich sweeper/libero NORBERT NACHTWEIH attempts to halt the forward progress of skillful Portugal international winger PAULO FUTRE of FC Porto during the 1987 European Cup Final at the Praterstadion in Vienna, Austria. (Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
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If there was a better player in the Bundesliga during the 1980s who never earned even a single senior international cap for his country, the blog would very much like to be made aware.

Nachtweih, of course, was a defector from East Germany and, naturally, a criminal in the eyes of his native state. Although it was the policy of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (West Germany) to grant instant citizenship to any East German who fled the Deutsche Demokratische Republik and applied for such, it was also the standard operating procedure of FIFA at that time which prohibited Nachtweih from playing for West Germany. Because the former Chemie Halle player had represented the German Democratic Republic during an official international match, even only at the youth level, the defector was ineligible to play for another country – ever.

West Germany, as is well known, reached the Final of FIFA’s World Cup for three consecutive tournaments (’82, ’86, ’90) over the course of Nachtweih’s playing career.

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Bayern Munich defender NORBERT NACHTWEIH engages in an aerial duel with West Germany’s future World Cup-winning striker KARL-HEINZ RIEDLE of Blau Weiss 90 Berlin during a 1986-87 Bundesliga season match at the Olympiastadion in Bavaria. (bundesliga.de photo)
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There is no question that Nachtweih would have unquestionably been capped by West Germany if it had been permissible and almost certainly a member of one, if not more, of the World Cup squads that were sent on to FIFA final tournaments in that era by the Deutsche Fussball Bund.

Nachtweih did earn numerous titles at the professional level while playing in the West German Bundesliga. The first arrived in the spring of 1980 with a winner’s medal from the surprising UEFA Cup triumph in 1980. Still a month shy of his 23rd birthday, the winger Nachtweih appeared in both legs of the final as Eintracht Frankfurt upended favored Borussia Moenchengladbach on away goals in the all-West German encounter.

Nachtweih and Eintracht Frankfurt followed up that success the next season with the DFB Pokal title.

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The pair who departed the East Germany U-21 national team while traveling in Turkey in the fall of 1976, midfielder NORBERT NACHTWEIH (second from left, back row) and goalkeeper JUERGEN PAHL (fourth from right, front row), are both shown here in this 1979-80 season team photo for West German Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt. (eintracht-archiv.de photo)
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Following a career-high 11 goals from 31 Bundesliga matches for Eintracht Frankfurt during the 1981-82 campaign, Nachtweih earned a prestigous transfer to Bayern Munich. The former East Germany U-21 international became a regular in the Bavarians line-up for the next seven seasons playing 202 Bundesliga games with 20 goals scored. The defector was utilized in both midfield and, ever more increasingly, in defense at left back by Bayern Munich.

Nachtweih would also make many starts at sweeper, or libero, in place of the injured West Germany’s World Cup-winning KLAUS AUGENTHALER towards the end of his time with Bayern Munich. All West German clubs played with the libero in this era and, in the country that produced the great FRANZ BECKENBAUER, the position was a prestigous and glamorous one. Significantly, Nachtweih started at sweeper for Bayern Munich in the 1987 European Cup final.

Nachtweih won four Bundesliga titles and another two West German Cups with Bayern Munich before a lucrative move to French Ligue 1 outfit AS Cannes in the summer of 1989.

Thus, it was on the world-famous French Riviera where Nachtweih was playing his football when the Berlin Wall symbolically fell later that November.

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