Bernd Bransch, East Germany’s World Cup captain, dies at 77

Sports

HALLE, Germany (AP) — Bernd Bransch, who captained East Germany at its only World Cup appearance in a symbolic Cold War win over West Germany, has died. He was 77.

Bransch’s former club Hallescher FC said in a statement Sunday that he had died on Saturday following “a long, severe illness.”

Bransch was East Germany’s equivalent of the charismatic West German star Franz Beckenbauer. Both men captained their national teams and both played as a sweeper, sitting deep in defense with space to start counterattacks.

When they met at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, it was Bransch’s team that came out the surprise winner, beating West Germany 1-0 with a goal from Jürgen Sparwasser. Both teams qualified from the first group stage, but East Germany was eliminated in the next round while West Germany won the tournament with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the final.

Bransch’s biggest career success came two years later when he won the Olympic gold medal with East Germany, coming on as a substitute in the 3-1 win over Poland in the final. In those days, the Olympic soccer tournament was strictly for amateurs, though satellite states of the Soviet Union like East Germany tended to dominate with squads of players who were registered as amateur but who played and trained full-time.

Hallescher FC, which was known as HFC Chemie in the East German league during Bransch’s playing days, said he retired in 1977 and later served as club president.

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