Bernd Bransch, 1944 - 2022 ⋆ An Old International

Bernd Bransch, 1944 – 2022

There are few players who are remembered by one photograph only. Bernd Bransch was one of them. His mos famour photo was a hand shake with Franz Beckenbauer ahead of the only all-German football in June 1974. Most importantly, it was Bransch whose goals got the GDR there.

a quiet hero

The football world has lost one of their quiet heroes in June 2022: Bernd Bransch. Almost a one club man, he stayed loyal to his native city and club, Halle and the HFC. As a player he was a left back but mostly featured as a sweeper. He played more than 300 matches for Halle and added 72 in the national shirt. He has become the face of the club as well as the city: Halle was Bransch was Halle. At the club he held almost all positions, except that of coach but he was president, manager and consultant but left the coaching to others. He was further an important representative of his native city, Halle where he also acted as a councillor.

His most famous photograph was taken on June 22, 1974 when he shook hands with his opposite number Franz Beckenbauer ahead of the one and only all-German football encounter. The underdogs sprung a surprise win when Jürgen Sparwasser nosed his way through the West German defense to score the only goal of the evening.

However, the player of the year 1974 in the GDR was not Sparwasser, nor Streich but Bransch. It was him who assured that East Germany would play in the West. In the final game of qualification, the GDR had to face Romania, a stiff opponent. A draw would not have been enough. Up stepped Bransch and scored two free kicks, securing the win and almost the ticket for the World Cup. Almost as Romania beat Finland 9-0 some days later, keeping the pressure on the GDR team to win in their final game away at Albania. It was an emphatic win, 4-1 and thus qualification was in the bags.

His biggest international successes were the Olympic Bronze medal in 1972 in Munich, against the Soviet Union and the gold medal in 1976 in Montreal against Poland. In Canada Bransch, already 31 years of age, was mainly a substitute. In the final, national coach Georg Buschner brought him on in the 85th minute to honour his long career as an East German international.

one year away

A loyal player for Halle, he only strayed once and only for a year in order to secure his status as an East German international. In the wake of Halle’s relegation 1973, Bransch swapped the red of Halle for the blue, white and yellow of Carl Zeiss Jena. Interestingly, it was with Jena that he won his only national trophy, the FDGB-Pokal, the FA cup of the GDR. Jena also were runners-up in the league to Dynamo Dresden. Once Halle were back in the top division a year later, Bransch was back home and stayed there until the end of his career in 1977.

As was the case with many athletes from the GDR, Bransch was also recruited by the MfS, the Stasi. At first he was checked upon from very early on in his career, 1965 and it stayed that way for a decade as Bransch was considered too unstable to be recruited. In June 1975 however, he signed his agreement, though he later denied having signed anything, something that is contested. Due to his role as club president he had access to the team and other personnel of the club and consequently filed them for Stasi purposes.

Bernd Bransch passed away on June 11 2022 after a long illness, aged 78.

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© image credits: twitter image by Rainer Mittelstädt, taken on June 14, 1974, via Wiki Commons under CC-BY-SA 3.0; image of Beckenbauer and Bransch shaking hands via FCC Wiki.

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