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We played soccer in the street, too. By Karl Buder

Growing up in post war Germany, I recall that whenever I saw a ball I would kick it. My grandfather recognized my enjoyment in soccer and he bought me a rubber ball for my 4th birthday in 1946, which was the only thing available at that time.

My mother was furious, as on the one hand they didn't want me to play soccer, as I constantly ruined my shoes, which were difficult to get at the time and secondly, she felt that soccer was the game of ordinary people and hence the son of an engineer should not be playing this game. My love of the game, however, overcame her wishes and I continued playing, in spite of the punishments I received each and every time. Again my grandfather stepped up to solve part of the problem by finding an old pair of soccer boots at the shoemaker, which he bought for me. They were cracked in the middle and probably way too big, but they were soccer boots and I proudly wore them for the first time in a pickup game.

The kids in our neighborhood were lucky to have an empty lot behind our house, where we could go and play every day. As my game improved, I started to play with the older guys and one day one of them asked me if I wanted to play on a youth team for my local team. Knowing my mother's objections to the game, I consulted with my grandfather and we hashed out a plan for me to join the team. I went to practice twice a week and was added to the squad shortly thereafter.

My proudest moment was when I was able to put on a uniform for the first time. While my grandfather was proudly watching, I was somewhat saddened that my parents were not present, especially my father. While the field was not in the best of conditions, I thoroughly loved being on the field with my team mates.

Since my hometown, Augsburg was totally destroyed during the war, the city had to be rebuilt and the city fathers decided to transport all of the rubble to a location just outside of the center of town, where a new soccer stadium was going to be built. My second love was trains and I rode the narrow gauge trains, helping to dump the rubble at the location of where the stadium site was and finally in 1952 the stadium was finished and it was inaugurated with a national game between Germany and Switzerland.

The highlight of my soccer career was then, when I was selected to represent my home town against a select team from neighboring Munich in the preliminary match. Selected for my team was also Helmut Haller, who later was the first German international to play in Italy. The coach's instructions to us were simple, get the ball to Haller and he'll score the goals. We won the game 5:0 and I got to play the last 15 minutes of the game.

Again, the only family member in the stands were my very proud grandfather.

Karl Buder

Posted on 15 Sep 2006 by coachgianni
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