Home » Sepp Maier is 80 – he was both a world-class goalie and humorist

Sepp Maier is 80 – he was both a world-class goalie and humorist

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Sepp Maier is 80 – he was both a world-class goalie and humorist

As a goalkeeper he collected titles in a row – and as a humorist the Bavarian also thrilled the audience. Sepp Maier will be 80 years old this Wednesday.

Always humorous: Here the goalkeeper Sepp Maier (FC Bayern Munich) catches the ball with his cap.


“You don’t have to pay for me,” says Sepp Maier, as the author’s wallet slips out of his back pocket and falls to the floor at the end of a three-hour conversation in Maier’s house. Which documents a few of the essential characteristics of this legendary goalkeeper. Humor, quick-wittedness, presence of mind, and not just on the football field – these are terms that are associated with Bavaria. A tribune who could afford all sorts of things because his performance made him unassailable.

The action from 1976, when Maier had little to do in a Bundesliga game against Bochum, is unforgettable. Bayern striker Gerd Müller was about to take a penalty when the goalkeeper saw a duck on the sideline in Munich’s Olympic Stadium. The goalie gave in to the hunting instinct, he took a run and jumped. But the poultry were faster. Maier was left empty-handed, which was rare.

As a goalkeeper, only Iker Casillas was more successful than Maier

The humorist in goal: That was the role of his life. During the Munich carnival, Maier, who turns 80 on February 28th, liked to impersonate the famous satirist Karl Valentin – “Falentin, not Wallentin” is what it has to say, as Maier emphasizes. It was almost indistinguishable from the original on stage. The fact that he was probably the best goalie of his time, whose impressive collection of titles was only surpassed by the Spaniard Iker Casillas, is sometimes forgotten, even in Germany.

Goalkeeper or humorist? The Bavarian Sepp Maier decided on both.


Many football fans remember Maier as the joker better than the goalkeeper, and there is a reason for that. Maier had incredible reflexes. But his game was no show. He was a master at anticipating. He often intercepted crosses near the penalty spot. Recognize dangers before they arise: Maier’s straightforward goalkeeping game was based on this timeless maxim.

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Sepp Maier lives in the village of Hohenlinden. If traffic permits, he can get to Munich by car in three quarters of an hour. The facade of the house at the end of the street is as unspectacular as most of the others in the neighborhood. He’s not far from the golf course; he’s there whenever he can.

With him, Bayern went from number two to a world club

He actually wanted to be a center forward. But at FC Bayern they value the goalkeeper Maier more than the striker Maier. Bayern remained his only club in professional football, with them he won four European Cups, including the national champions three times in a row. In Munich, Maier experienced great success and the transformation of Munich’s number two (in the 1960s, local rivals 1860 Munich were the dominant club) into a world club.

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a challenging time not only in terms of sport; The Bavarian football environment was changing rapidly at that time. The spirit of the times had an effect right into the dressing room, the first high school graduates came to the club: Paul Breitner and Ulrich Hoeness, but also Rainer Zobel and the aspiring doctor Jupp Kapellmann, who had been guaranteed by contract that he would continue his studies with them during the season to be able to continue carrying out necessary events.

Not everyone was able to cope with these changes. Gerd Müller, the outstanding goalgetter, who came from a humble background, became, so to speak, a stranger in his own club. The trained machine fitter Maier, however, adapted to the new conditions in his own way: it was humor that enabled Maier to always distance himself from the trade. And it has remained that way to this day. This is definitely better for your health, says the passionate golfer. When he looks at his former teammates who remained loyal to professional football, he always worries about their overly intense complexions.

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Always remained loyal to FC Bayern: the indestructible goalie Sepp Maier.


Maier played 442 Bundesliga games – in a row

The professional Maier was considered indestructible. He appeared in the Bundesliga 442 times – in a row, without any interruptions, a unique record. For Toni Schumacher, his successor in the national team, Maier was “the super professional”. This tough competition also set him apart from his competitors.

The fact that Germany became European champions in 1972 and world champions two years later was also thanks to the goalie’s achievements: the 2-1 final win in 1974 against the all-too-confident Dutch was Maier’s game – in the same sense as he himself was of the achievement of a great goalkeeper: In the few situations in which he was called upon, he prevented the Dutch from equalizing, which seemed almost certain.

For a good goalkeeper, says Maier, it’s not about flying all over the box. Rather, he always has to be on top of what’s happening and convey calm to the team. He sees this ideal embodied in Manuel Neuer, the recovered Bayern goalie. He has kind words for Bayern’s interim solution Yann Sommer, but no mild judgment: Sommer “is a very good goalkeeper” and is by no means, as critics say, short-changed in terms of body length. But all in all he is not outstanding – which means nothing other than that he lacks the necessary format for a club like Bayern Munich.

Maier is still relentless in his demands. But he doesn’t sit on his knowledge of power. He was happy to pass on his experience – and played such a big role in Germany being seen as a nation of goalkeepers. However, the first person to approach Maier with the desire to be trained by him was a Belgian: Jean-Marie Pfaff. After all sorts of experiments by Bayern in the goalkeeper position, he managed to close the gap that Maier had left behind when he retired. The last person Maier coached was Oliver Kahn – both in the club and in the national team.

In the national team, Maier’s siding with his protégé over his competitor Jens Lehmann was fatal; national coach Jürgen Klinsmann replaced Maier. “I told the punt: You, be careful, the Lehmann is behind in the goal.” But the protégé didn’t want to believe him. In the end it happened as Maier had predicted.

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The goalkeeper Maier was a practitioner and theorist in equal measure. He has published several books on goalie training. He was the first to play with oversized gloves because the long fingers created a buffer against hard kicks. As a coach, he devised ways to get out of the routine of stupid “bullying”. The former keeper asked himself how he would have liked to have been trained himself.

Regarding the goalkeeper position, Sepp Maier says: “It is the most important position in a team. There’s nothing to discuss at all.”

Sven Hoppe / DPA

Sepp Maier considers Uli Hoeness to be his savior

Jean-Marie Pfaff praises Maier’s skills as a coach highly, as does Raimund Aumann, and Oliver Kahn also has nothing to say about the goalie coach. The mentor never lacked self-confidence: “It is the most important position in a team. There’s nothing to discuss at all.” And most importantly, be calm. In his inimitable diction, Maier says: “As a goalkeeper, you have to stay calm. But you can’t fall asleep.”

What hurt Maier, however, is the abrupt manner in which his career ended: In 1979, Maier, then 35 years old, aquaplaned in the rain and crashed into another vehicle. His Mercedes coupe was junk, he was taken to the hospital and the doctors diagnosed simple fractures.

Uli Hoeness, now Bayern manager, pushed for the transfer to another hospital. There it became clear that the injuries were actually life-threatening. Hoeness’ intuition saved his life, says Maier. Without the accident, he would have had a few more years as a professional. Ultimately, says Maier, he is at peace with football. Who would have more reason to do that than him?

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