« Here, Erwin Kostedde does not need to run as he used to. It’s sufficient that he’s present in the opposite box and that he scores goals, even with his back side…»
– Rudi Assauer, manager Werder Bremen (1980)
Erwin Kostedde, the Cursed Pioneer
In the history of Standard de Liège, striker Erwin Kostedde remains irremediably linked to the 1969-70-71 treble under the great René Hauss, much more than his brief stint in the last season under Robert Waseige (1978-79).
The transfer of the native of Münster (Rhine-Westphalia) is fully in line with these good steals from Roger Petit who transferred players who had not yet left indelible marks in the Bundesliga and who took advantage of their time in Sclessin to bounce back within the German elite to the point of even opening the doors of the Manschaft (like Bernd Patzke, Harald Nickel or even Heinz Gründel).
For Erwin Kostedde, a child of the post-war years in West Germany, this sporting glory was all the less obvious because one “thing” set him apart from other young footballers: his skin color. The son of a GI who returned to the United States and whom he has never known, the young man must grow up in a rather conservative and … white community.
« In Münster, the simple fact of walking around in jeans was enough to receive criticism, so having a different skin color… », he summed up in an interview granted ten years ago to the German monthly 11Freunde (the equivalent of SoFoot). « After the war, there were three of us mixed race in Münster and we all knew each other. The first was an altar boy and was killed in a traffic accident after a funeral. The second drowned in Lake Aa. From childhood, I was afraid that some misfortune or a curse would befall us. »
Erwin Kostedde found his way in life with the ball. « For me, there was only football. We had a team at school, and I was the best. You notice it right away – even at ten years old. I was not a good student and I did not want to learn either, apart from geography. I dreamed of America … »
His first steps logically lead him to clubs in Münster, Saxonia and then to Preussen. « I am often presented as a goalscorer, of course I have always scored a lot of goals. But I’ve always been happy to participate in the game, to be involved. Of course, as a striker you sometimes had to stay in front and wait, but I always had fun when I touched the ball a lot. And I had the technique, I was certainly not the fastest, but for a good counter, you have to be fast in your head above all. »
Taken under the wing of former international “Fifi” Gerritzen in Saxonia, Erwin Kostedde uses triple jump techniques to develop a particular movement, still known in Germany as “Erwin Shuffle” « “Pippi” had been a great right winger himself. And I accepted it at the time, I practiced for hours until I got the hang of it. Many members of the team had already given up… »
With his good performances in the Regionalliga with Preussen, he ended up attracting the attention of MSV Duisburg, one of the good clubs in the Rhineland, and one of the founding clubs of the Bundesliga. His first experience with glory is devastating. « It started really well there. I received excellent reviews. People were ecstatic about the “new Pelé” because the press had no other reference because of my skin color. Later, I was also called the “brown bomber” by comparison with Gerd Müller, who was called “Der Bomber”. I never liked that expression and hadn’t been asked the question at the time. It was launched in the gazettes and it was picked up…»
« In Duisburg, after training, as it used to be the case in those days, we would have a drink together. We would stand at the counter, then one would leave, then the other. Suddenly I found myself alone. But whatever ! Going to bed wasn’t appealing to me, so I partied and missed practice the next day. I was just too young and alone. Glory rose to my head and I toured the bars. There was no shortage of trouble with my trainer Gyula Lorant. So I took a sabbatical and fled to Amsterdam in high season. I dreamed of the unofficial championship in the United States, but finally decided to come back. The fans accepted me right away and forgave me for everything. I could have done better in Duisburg and the people there deserved it. The fact that I have taken the right path afterwards has done me good. ”
That straight path led Erwin Kostedde to Standard in 1968… but coming to Liège was quite a story. « I was meant to join Alemannia Aachen », he narrates. « I had already had training at Tivoli and in the evening I was walking around town when suddenly, a Mercedes stopped next to me and four Yugoslavs (Editor’s note: including manager Ljubo Barin) jumped out of it. “Are you Erwin Kostedde?” – “Yes !” – “You can play for Standard de Liège”. I nodded no, since I had already signed with Alemannia. But they insisted: “Anything! What are you earning here? In Liège, you’re going to earn 80,000 marks a year! ” I just grabbed my ID and crossed the border. I was hid for a week in Knokke.
Then I was given money and I went on vacation while the management of Alemannia was looking for me. When the two clubs came to an agreement, I joined training at Standard de Liège. To my surprise, the contract was still not concluded! The board of directors was present at training. Fortunately, coach René Hauss was well intentioned towards me. I had trained little and I lacked physical condition. He placed me in the box and made Léon Semmeling, Belgian international, from the right, and Antal Nagy, Hungarian international, from the left, take one cross after the other. Out of ten, I put nine behind the goalie. Everyone was amazed. When I went back to the offices the 80,000 DM in cash was on the table… »
At Standard, Erwin Kostedde was supposed to make up for the departure of Roger Claessen, who went to… Alemannia. « In Liège, I quickly found my marks. You also have to imagine that I was practically the only player on the team who was not an international. This did not yet exist at the time in the Bundesliga, where so many international footballers played for the same team. So I learned a lot in Belgium, especially what it means to be a professional footballer. There was Milan Galic in particular. I ended up replacing him from the team but at the time, he was already a little older. But I learned a lot from him. »
His career in Liège started off with a bang: a first goal in his first official Belgian FA Cup match on 31 August 1968 against Racing Ghent (3D) then a hat-trick the following week in the league against Union (5-1), followed by another goal during the away trip to Daring. Caught up by his alcohol demons following issues in his private life, the rest of his season is more erratic. He participated in particular in the Liège derby at Rocourt where his compatriot Rodekamp (3 goals) stole the show by scoring in the last moments the goal of 4-3 for RFC Liège while Kostedde thought he had saved a point by equalizing at 3-3 at the 86th… He ended up being absent for many weeks because he was secretly sent to rehab by Roger Petit.
Erwin returned to form at the end of the season and was notably carried in triumph on the shoulders of supporters during the trip to Waregem on April 17, 1969 where, in addition to the 2nd goal since his return, he celebrated his first league title with the Rouches. Participating in 15 out of 30 league matches, he still finished with his 11 goals in the top 15 of the scorers’ classification dominated by his teammate Antal Nagy (20 goals).
He refuses to be naturalized Belgian
In 1969-70, his contribution was even more limited with 10 appearances and 6 goals in the league… including a quadruple against Racing White. He distinguished himself in the Cup by scoring the qualifying goal in Charleroi in the 102nd and his name crossed the German borders again by scoring in Sclessin the only goal against Real Madrid. « Scoring a goal against Madrid is an unforgettable memory.» A knee injury deprives him of the dream of playing the World Cup in Mexico with the FRG. « The Belgian federation once asked me to naturalize but I refused. I was obsessed with wearing the white jersey with the eagle on my chest. Some did not understand this ambition because I was mixed race. »
His third season is that of the consecration with 27 appearances in D1 and 26 goals (in fact 27 but his goal in Antwerp was cancelled following the forfeit inflicted on Standard for having fielded too many foreign players), only remaining silent six times out of the twenty-seven matches. Erwin Kostedde notably scored the only Liège goal at Parc Astrid, the 2-2 during this key victory in a legendary FC-Bruges-Standard at the Klokke (2-3) and especially the double against the Crossing for the match of the title on May 2, 1971 in Sclessin. And whilst Roger Petit claims in German magazine Kicker that he has extended his cotract for one more year, Erwin Kostedde returns to his country to play in… the second division at Kickers Offenbach who payed 800,000 DM (Editor’s note: 400,000 euro) to repatriate him.
And in 1974, he finally realized his dream: after being elected goal of the year, he was called up to the national team for a match on December 22 in Malta, in qualification for Euro 76. Gerd Müller had just retired, and for the very first time, a player of color wore the national team jersey and a documentary dedicated to Erwin Kostedde on his 75th birthday, which aired in the spring of 2021, reconsidered this epic. « Many also told me that I was crazy to think that a man of color could one day be part of the German national team. I am proud to have achieved this and to have paved the way for others. Sadly, I just played three games without scoring a goal. The players from Bayern Munich or Mönchengladbach knew each other well and were therefore well established as a team. There were these two big blocks back then. Unfortunately, that was not enough to play more international matches. It still annoys me. I would have liked to play more and score goals. »
At 32, after a failed experience at Borussia Dortmund (where supporters insulted him calling him a coal sack), he returned to Standard in December 1978. Two weeks after having attended Standard-Berchem, he played again on December 17, 1978 in Sclessin against Beveren (short loss on a goal from Erwin… Albert). He had to wait until March 11, 1979 to score his first Belgian D1 goal at Lokeren. In 15 appearances, he scores 6 goals. His last three are synonymous with victory in Charleroi, against RWDM (which qualifies the Rouches for the UEFA Cup and on the field of champion Beveren on May 27. « I would have liked to stay at Standard but the new coach Ernst Happel arrived with Ralf Edström. I understood that I was no longer going to be the first choice. »
Erwin Kostedde rebounded in Laval (where he finished top scorer in Ligue 1 with 21 goals while training only once a week in France!) Afterwards he joined Werder Bremen in the second division and helped them to go back to the Bundesliga and then qualifying them for Europe the following season (81-82). « At my age, I was just asked to stay planted in the rectangle. » He ended his career at Osnabrück which was the year too much.
The post-football period was more eventful. In particular, he lost his money in crappy investments advised by an unscrupulous agent. « I thought I had put the money in the right place so that it withstood the crisis and I always added more to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, I often trusted bad friends. Today I think about how stupid I was bas ck then. » It eventually cost him his house.
Worse in 1990, he spent 6 months in prison for a theft in a games room, facts for which he was totally exonerated. « It changed my life. Try imaging being in prison innocently. The police and the prosecution gathered hallucinating clues against me. You sit in the courtroom and you say to yourself: what movie is taking place here? I couldn’t admit what I hadn’t done. The whole charge was based on some silly statements and the trial turned out to be a joke. But you can be acquitted ten times, it just never goes away. No one will give me back my reputation, and the worst part is how my family must have suffered. I tell you very honestly: since 1990 the former Erwin Kostedde died in prison. Today, when the name of Erwin Kostedde is mentioned, the story of 1990 always comes back to the surface. But the footballer Erwin Kostedde, also accomplished many things, where is he? It has nothing to do with the stupid mistakes I made and the loss of money. I don’t want to embellish anything here. Those where my fault and I can live with it. But I cannot live with the way my reputation has been destroyed by negligent police officiers, a profile-hungry prosecution and the tabloid press. »
Today, Erwin Kostedde still resides in Münster despite the death of his wife Monique two years ago. He walks his dog Jimmy. Voices are raised to rename the Preussen stadium, where he still likes to hang out in the stands when the public is admitted …
(c) Philippe Gerday – December 2021
Date of birth: 21 May 1946, in Münster (Ger)
1e affiliation at Standard: 25 April 1968 – 6 August 1971
2e affiliation at Standard: 8 December 1978 – 23 July 1979
Trophies with Standard: 3x Belgian Championships (1969, 1970, 1971)
International games / goals: 3 / 0
1964 – 1965
1965 – 1967
1967 – 1968
1968 – 1971
1971 – 1975
1975 – 1976
1976 – 1978
1978 – 1978
1978 – 1979
1979 – 1980
1980 – 1982
1982 – 1983
M.S.V. Duisburg (ALL)
R. Standard C.L. (16)
Hertha Berlin S.C. (ALL)
Borussia Dormund (7)
S.G. Union Scholingen (ALL)
Stade Laval (FRA)
Werden Bremen (ALL)
Vfl Osnabrück (AUT)
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup