- Category : Footballer
- Type : GP
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Four Ways 3
Friedrich "Fritz" Walter (31 October 1920 – 17 June 2002) was a German footballer. In his time with the German national team, he made 61 caps and scored 33 goals. He usually played as an inside forward or attacking midfielder.
Life and career
Early club career
Walter was exposed to football early with his parents working at the 1. FC Kaiserslautern club restaurant. By 1928 he had joined the Kaiserslautern youth academy, and he made his first team debut at 17, continuing an association with the club that would be his only professional club.
International pro teams had repeatedly offered him hefty sums, but with support from his wife always declined in order to stay at home, to play for his home town, the national team and "Chef" (German for "boss") Herberger.
Walter debuted with the German national team in 1940 under Sepp Herberger, and scored a hat-trick against Romania.
Walter was drafted into the armed forces in 1942, however, the end of the war found 24-year old Walter in a Prisoner of War camp in Maramures in which he played with Hungarian and Slovakian guards. When the Soviets arrived they in general took all German prisoners back to a Gulag in Soviet Union where life expectancy was about five years. Fortunately, one of the Hungarian prison guards had seen Walter playing for Germany, and told them that Fritz was not German but from the Saar Territory.
Return to Germany
Upon his return in 1945, Walter, who by now suffering from malaria, again played for Kaiserslautern, leading them to German championships in 1951 and 1953. Sepp Herberger recalled him to the national team in 1951, and he was named captain.
He was captain of the West German team that won their first World Cup in 1954. Ironically, given the intervention of the Hungarian guards during the war, that win came over Hungary. He and his brother, Ottmar Walter, became the first brothers to play in a World Cup winning team.
But in 1956, after the crackdown by the Soviets of the Hungarian Uprising, the Hungarian football team were caught away from home, and for two years, Fritz managed their games and provided the financial backing and in small measure, paid them back for having saved his life. Walter received his last cap during the semi-final against Sweden in the 1958 World Cup, suffering an injury which ended his international career, and he retired from football in 1959.
Fritz Walter on a 1968 UAE stamp
Fritz Walter on a 1988 Paraguay stamp
Later life and legacy
The home stadium of FC Kaiserslautern was renamed the Fritz-Walter-Stadion in 1985.
Fritz Walter was named an honorary captain of the German football squad in 1958. The other four are Uwe Seeler, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthäus and Bettina Wiegmann.
Walter died in Enkenbach-Alsenborn on 17 June 2002, aged 81. It was his dream to see the World Cup 2006 in "his" town Kaiserslautern as the town had not been selected in the smaller tournament of 1974, but it was denied with his death. But on the fourth year anniversary of his death on 17 June 2006, the United States played Italy in Kaiserslautern and a minute of silence was observed in his memory. Today people may visit the "Fritz Walter Haus" in the town of Enkenbach-Alsenborn approx. 20 km east of Kaiserslautern (first exit from Kaiserslautern on Bundesautobahn 6 direction Mannheim).
In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's 50th anniversary, the German Football Association selected him as its Golden Player of the past 50 years (from 1954 to 2003).
During the eighties and nineties, there was another successful Bundesliga striker called "Fritz Walter", who mainly played for VfB Stuttgart. Although he had no relationship to the great Kaiserslautern captain, sports fans jokingly called him "Fritz Walter junior".