Former POW, soccer star Bert Trautmann, 89
FRANKFURT, Germany -- Bert Trautmann, a former German World War II prisoner of war who became Manchester City's goalkeeper and helped the team win the FA Cup despite a broken neck for the last 17 minutes of the 1956 final, has died, the German soccer federation said. He was 89.
The federation said Trautmann died in La Llosa, near Valencia, Spain, where he lived. Trautmann's wife Marlies told the federation he died Friday morning.
Trautmann had suffered two heart attacks this year but appeared to have recovered well, the federation said.
"Bert Trautmann was a great sportsman and a real gentleman," federation President Wolfgang Niersbach said. "He came as a soldier and war enemy to England and became a celebrated hero."
Manche-ster City called Trautmann one of the club's "greatest goalkeepers of all time and a true club legend."
"There are fewer better examples of the power of football to build bridges than Bert Trautmann," FIFA President Sepp Blatter said.
Trautmann made 545 appearances for City between 1949 and 1964 and was revered for his performance in the team's 1956 FA Cup final win over Birmingham.
In 2004, he was appointed an honorary Officer of the British Empire for his efforts to improve Anglo-German relations. He was also awarded the highest German decoration and once said his heart "beats for both countries."
Born in Bremen between the two world wars, Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe and served as a paratrooper during World War II, earning an Iron Cross. He was captured in Russia, escaped and was captured by the British as the war drew to a close. Trautmann was sent to a prisoner of war camp in Ashton-in-Makerfield, near Wigan, where he caught attention during soccer games played there.
Trautmann made England his adopted country and declined to be repatriated. His performances with the non-league club St. Helen Town often brought out huge crowds and caught the eye of Manchester City. He joined the club in 1949, accompanied by the protest of 20,000 with memories of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany still fresh.
In one of his first games in London, which still bore signs of heavy damage from Germany's air raids, Trautmann overcame a hostile reception to play so well that at the end of the match, the players formed a line on both sides of the tunnel and applauded him, while the Fulham crowd gave a standing ovation.