The life of Bert Trautmann: Broken neck, Prisoner of War, Man City legend

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Today the sad news arrived that legendary goalkeeper Bert Trautmann has passed away.

The Manchester City legend died at the age of 89, after one of the most encapsulating careers soccer has ever seen.

Trautmann was a German paratrooper who was captured by British forces and became Prisoner of War.

His intriguing and incredible story starts there.

Trautmann made 545 appearances for City between 1949 and 1964 after winning over a nation with his brilliance and bravery, but the German soldier faced fierce opposition when City first signed him, as over 20,000 people signed a petition against him playing for the English club.

However Trautmann’s status as one of the bravest goalkeepers in soccer history still remains today. That’s all because of one brutal moment during the 1956 FA Cup final at Wembley.

In the second half, Trautmann dove bravely at the feet of Birmingham City’s Peter Murphy but was hit hard by the impact. However the German ‘keeper played on for the final 16 minutes of the game… with a broken neck. City won the FA Cup and it’s gone down in history as a day that belonged to Trautmann.

On that day he was immortalized into British sporting history.

Trautmann’s heroics won over his doubters and despite being German, he claimed in later life to be very proud of his time in the UK. “When people ask me about life, I say my education began when I got to England. I learnt about humanity, tolerance and forgiveness.”

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Trautmann was written into soccer folklore, after playing on despite breaking his neck in the 1956 FA Cup final.

Despite people having to show a lot of forgiveness to Trautmann when he began his soccer career in England, he soon won them over with one virtuoso display after another. After soccer Trautmann became the first German ambassador to the UK following the second World War and was given an OBE for “promoting Anglo-German understanding through football.”

After that he travelled the world and coached in countries such as Burma and Pakistan, but England always remained close to his heart and he was a fan of Manchester City and attended games in recent years before his health deteriorated.

Personally, growing up and playing the game in England, you would often hear references to Trautmann’s bravery from aging coaches. “What are you crying about a scrapped knee for? There was a goalkeeper who once played with a broken neck, get up.”

Something along those lines often cropped up when youngsters feigned injury or over-reacted on the pitch. Trautmann’s legend lives on amongst many generations.

But even though his life has now come to an end, the soccer world respects his bravery on the field. Trautmann often frustratedly referred to himself as the ‘goalkeeper who broke his neck.’ He will never be forgotten in the British Isles and further afield for that.

Yet Trautmann was much more than that, as the incredible story of his life portrays.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.

Netherlands manager Danny Blind fired after Bulgaria loss

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The Netherlands are in real trouble, and the manager has paid the price.

The Dutch national team has parted ways with Danny Blind the day after a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria left the Dutch fourth in their World Cup qualification group halfway through.

The move garnering all the headlines from Saturday’s loss was Blind’s decision to start 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt. The Ajax youth product, who has just two Eredivisie starts to his credit, made two crucial errors and yanked at halftime, but the damage had been done. Spas Delev scored twice in the opening 20 minutes for Bulgaria, and that was all the home side needed as the Dutch offered little in front of goal.

Blind was also criticized for not getting Memphis Depay on the field as they chased the game. The Netherlands held 74% possession, but could only manage 3 shots on target. Depay has been in good form since his January move to Lyon, with five goals in his 10 Ligue 1 appearances.

This decision was something Blind saw coming. He told national broadcaster NOS immediately after the Bulgaria loss, “I blame myself. It can’t go on like this. Things have to change.”

“I need to think about [my future]. I do not throw the towel in here. I’m incredibly disappointed, especially since I had a good feeling about this match. It makes sense that I put myself in front of the mirror.”

However, the problems for the Dutch go far deeper than Danny Blind. They missed out on Euro 2016 largely thanks to the failed 2nd tenure for Guus Hiddink. His assistant Blind took over, but the results have been equally as poor. The Netherlands sit fourth in UEFA World Cup qualification Group A, with losses to Bulgaria and France plus a draw with Sweden. It’s not over for them though, as they sit three points back of a second place spot with five matches to go, and three of those five at home.

With the Netherlands still yet to play their friendly against Italy this coming week, former goalkeeper Fred Grim takes over on an interim basis. Grim collected 101 caps for the Netherlands, and has served as the Netherlands U-21 manager for the last two years. Before that, he took charge of his first full managerial job as head man of Dutch 2nd-tier club Almere City.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.